Villagers, politicians at Sarabjit's funeral

Last Updated: Fri, May 03, 2013 17:54 hrs

Bhikiwind, Punjab, May 3 (IBNS): From politicians, mediapersons to civil society people and countless villagers of Punjab- all are gathering in the village of Bhikiwind, where slain Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh's last rites will be conducted on Friday afternoon.

It seems to be a political race now as no political party is leaving out the chance to extend their support to the slain Indian prisoner´s family, although many angrily said these were the same people who didn´t seem to do much while he was alive.

The Punjab government has declared Sarabjit a martyr, who succumbed to his injuries early Thursday in the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore. Pakistan said he died of cardiac arrest.

A coffin draped in Indian flag containing Sarabjit´s body has been shifted to a nearby school a few while back, where the last rites will take place at 2 PM with full state honours.

The body will later be taken to the cremation ground later. His body was earlier on Thursday evening brought to India from Lahore on a special Air India flight.

At his state funeral, the entire Akali-Dal-led Punjab cabinet is expected, along with politicians from other parties.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, an MP from Patiala, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy Sukhbir Badal and a number of leaders are expected to attend the last rites of Sarabjit.

Congress Vice Rahil Gandhi is also expected to attend the funeral though the reports are not confirmed.

People in huge numbers are also pouring in from the nearby villages to pay tribute to the deceased prisoner.

Meanwhile, an autopsy was conducted on Sarabjit which revealed that his body was injured in many parts.

Earlier on Thursday, a medical team was set up in Pakistan to conduct an autopsy on Sarabjit Singh.

Sarabjit Singh was attacked inside Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore by two other inmates Rizwan and Amir- both death row prisoners on Friday last week. He received serious head injuries and was on ventilator.

Sarabjit, since the Friday attack was battling death in coma at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) even as his family comprising his wife, two daughters and sister went to Lahore to meet him under tragic circumstances.

Sarabjit Singh´s family on Wednesday returned to India via Wagah border after meeting him in a Lahore hospital, only to learn about his death from the media reports.

Sarabjit´s family has requested that he be given "a martyr´s funeral" though Pakistan has all along maintained that he was a terrorist.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regretted Sarabjit´s death and called him a brave son of India.

"The criminals responsible for the barbaric and murderous attack on Sarabjit Singh must be brought to justice," he said.

He said it was regrettable that Pakistan did not pay any heed to the pleas to return Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also condemned the death of Sarabjit and blamed the government for their failure to maintain proper diplomacy.

They said he was attacked and murdered deliberately, while blaming the government for failing to ensure safety.

Sarabjit has been languishing in Pakistani jail for over 20 years after a Pakistani anti-terrorist court awarded him the death sentence in 1991.

He had been convicted of involvement in a string of bombings in Punjab in 1990 that killed 14 people.

Earlier on Thursday, Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh who put up a spirited fight to save her brother and bring him back from imprisonment in Lahore, urged all Indians to rise against the hostile neighbour so that the country would think twice before such a "heinous act".

Dalbir Kaur was fuming and from a departure from her anti-UPA stand on the issue, she urged all to strengthen the hands of Manmohan Singh to fight the Pakistan establishment. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde met Kaur on Thursday and assured her of all assistance. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also met the family.

"Today Pakistan has killed an innocent Indian. Sarabjit of Hindustan has been martyred today for Hindustan. The allegations of terrorism on him were on all Indians. Today Zardari [ Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari] has committed a murder for elections. It is a cowardly act," said Kaur in New Delhi.

"Musharraf had back stabbed Vajpayee [BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee] and now it has again back stabbed Manmohan Singh. Now is the time to unite and call Pakistan a coward and betrayer. Stop all ties with Pakistan," said Kaur.

She said human rights activist in Pakistan, Ansar Burney, had demanded Rs 25 crore from Kaur for Sarabjit´s return. "If I had paid Rs 25 crore to Ansar Burney, Sarabjit would have returned to India. They said at least Rs 2 crore is needed," Dalbir Kaur said in a stunning allegation against Burney.

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