All roads led to Bhikhiwind on Friday as the Punjab border town bid farewell to Sarabjit Singh, its son who finally came home after 22 years in a Pakistani jail.They may have failed to secure his release but VIPs of all shades came together here Friday at the cremation of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh who was beaten to death in Pakistan.
As sister Dalbir Kaur lit the pyre, thousands lined the narrow road to the cremation ground, perched on walls, rooftops and any spare space. Some cried, some raised their voices in anger, none were unaffected.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi flew into this Punjab town from New Delhi. He got off from his car and walked some distance to reach the cremation ground
Gandhi remained with Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur for some time just before she lit the pyre of the brother for whose life she fought bravely over the years.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was the first to place a wreath on Sarabjit’s body. He was followed by his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. A number of cabinet ministers, members of parliament and legislators of the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance also placed wreaths.
The 49-year-old Sarabjit was accorded a state funeral. He received fatal injuries in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail April 26 when he was brutally assaulted by fellow prisoners with bricks and sharp-edged things. He was declared dead in Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital early Thursday. His body was brought in a special Air India flight from Lahore to Amritsar Thursday evening.
A second post-mortem report concluded that Sarabjit Singh had been attacked with the motive of killing him. Preliminary findings on cause and time of death were similar to those on the death certificate issued by Lahore’s Jinnah hospital.
Dr Gurmanjit Rai, head of forensic medicine at the Government Medical College, Patti, said Singh’s stomach, gall bladder, heart and kidneys were missing and a request had been sent to Lahore for these. He explained it was standard practice to extract viscera for post-mortem.
Dr Rai also said they had asked Pakistani authorities for the first post-mortem report but had been sent the death certificate instead. “If we’d got the first report, we could have come out with several other facts about the death.”