Prime Minister calls him ‘brave son of India’, assails Pakistan – Rajnath Singh wants envoy recalled
Ashok Tuteja & Syed Ali Ahmed, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 2. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed outrage over Sarabjit Singh’s death and attacked Pakistan for not heeding to India’s pleas for taking a humanitarian view of the Indian death row convict’s case. The BJP went a step further and demanded the scaling down of diplomatic relations with Islamabad.
Parliament passed a unanimous resolution, condemning the “inhuman treatment” meted out to Sarabjit in Pakistan’s Kot Lakhpat Jail leading to his death and asked the Pakistan authorities to bring to book those who carried out the murderous assault on him.
As protests erupted in parts of the National Capital following Sarabjit’s death, his distraught family members met Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and other leaders at National Commission for Scheduled Castes vice-chairman Raj Kumar Verka’s residence here and demanded that he be declared a “martyr” and cremated with full state honours.
They also asked the government to take full responsibility of the family – Sarabjit’s wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Poonam and Swapandeep and sister Dalbir Kaur.
Dalbir Kaur complained that her brother had been killed in the Pakistan jail due to government’s negligence. Had the government taken the case seriously, Sarabjit would have come home alive.
She alleged that a Pakistan official had demanded Rs 25 crore as bribe for Sarabjit’s life. When she expressed her helplessness, the official concerned reduced the bribe amount to Rs 2 crore.
Soon after India woke up to the news of Sarabjit’s death in Pakistan, the Prime Minister said: “I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Sarabjit. He was a brave son of India who bore his tribulations with valiant fortitude.”
Manmohan Singh underlined that the criminals responsible for the “barbaric and murderous attack” must be brought to justice.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he was “extremely anguished” by Sarabjit’s death, adding it had hurt the relations with Islamabad.
New Delhi asserted that it had been taking up Sarabjit’s case with the Pakistan authorities at every level since 2005. “If we were not convinced that Sarabjit is innocent, we would not have taken up his case,” MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
BJP president Rajnath Singh criticised the manner in which the government handled the Sarabjit issue. Had India taken effective diplomatic steps, such an incident would not have taken place, he said, demanding the recall of the Indian envoy to Islamabad as a mark of protest.
Members in both Houses of Parliament also expressed their anguish over Sarabjit’s death and adopted a resolution, condemning the “inhuman treatment” meted out to the Indian prisoner. The members also conveyed their condolences to the bereaved family and stood in silence as a mark of respect to the departed.
While Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari cancelled the dinner he was to host in honour of National Film award winners, Rajya Sabha member MS Gill asked the government to ensure that Sarabjit’s family members were adequately compensated.