Archive for the ‘Jingoism’ Category

Sarabjit Singh: A Spy? In Death, Gets His dues.

4 May 2013
A special plane of Air India was sent to retrieve from Pakistan the mortal remains of Sarabjit Singh. Two Indian diplomats were on the flight. In Amritsar, Minister of State for External Affairs, Preneet Kaur, and her husband and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Badal, were in attendance among others to receive the body. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh described Sarabjit, “brave son of India who bore his tribulations with valiant fortitude“. The PM announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2.5 million to his family. Punjab government announced financial assistance of Rs 10 million, declared state mourning for three days, and assured government jobs for Sarabjit’s daughters Swapandeep Kaur and Poonam. Sarabjit’s sister, Dalbir  Kaur, who had waged a relentless but what has come to now a futile fight for the release of her brother from Pakistan Jail, demanded her brother be declared a martyr. As if on cue, the Punjab government called a special assembly session and passed a unanimous resolution declaring Sarabjit Singh a National Martyr. Two Minutes silence was observed by both houses of India’s  Parliament and Punjab’s assembly. Sarabjit Singh was cremated with full state honours in his native village with three rounds gun salute by Punjab Police. Mourners in attendance were led by Rahul Gandhi, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma, Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Avtar Singh Makkar.
The funeral procession from the school, where Sarabjit’s body draped in National Flag was kept inside a glass enclosure for viewing, to the cremation ground -a distance of mere 500 meters- took full forty minutes. Rarely, if ever, such “reverence” has been on display even in the cases of martyrs of War or Counter Insurgency operations. Who was Sarabjit Singh then? Before we answer that, a look at the side show of competitive jingoism.
  • Rajnath Singh, BJP President: condemned the “cold blooded murder” and demanded that India call back its high commissioner in Pakistan and scale down diplomatic relations.
  • Sushma Swaraj, BJP-Leader of Oppostion-Lok Sabha: It is a cold blooded murder. This is not the way civilised nations behave.
  • Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP Leader: Rahul Gandhi and Congress leaders should stop shedding “crocodile tears” and state what steps were taken to save death row prisoner in Pakistan jail, Sarabjit Singh.
  • All India Congress Committee: released a paper documenting actions taken by the government in the matter and accused BJP-led NDA that they did not ever raise the issue with Pakistan authorities nor during the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore or during Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s visits to Agra or subsequent visits by any other dignitaries.
  • Mayawati, BSP leader: Dirty politics is being played in the name of Sarabjit. There are allegations and counter allegations. The need of the hour is to rise above politics and all political parties should unite on the issue.

Competitive Jingoism has fueled political one-upmanship. That explains partly the “reverence” and “patriotism” on display that is normally reserved for war heroes.
Returning to the question –Who was Sarabjit Singh then?- the answer will depend on whom you ask. Indian story goes that On the night of 28 August 1990, after ploughing his field with a friend, an inebriated Sarabjit lost his way home and crossed an unmarked Indo-Pakistani border area into Pakistan where he was arrested by the Pakistan Rangers in the Khalra border sector near Kasur. Sarabjit and his supporters claimed that the arrest was a case of mistaken identity and that he was only a poor farmer. Pakistani version claims that he was an Indian Spy in the employ of Research and Analysis wing. He was accused of terrorism and charged of carrying out series of bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 people. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a lower court in Pakistan in 1991. Until September 2005, for fourteen long years, there is complete Indian government apathy that was broken only when Pakistan’s supreme court confirmed death sentence to Sarabjit Singh. Through out this period he was called Manjit Singh by Pakistan and only after his identity was confirmed as Sarabjit Singh -an Indian national- did the Indian government swung into action, and India’s PM requested Pakistan’s president General Musharraf when they met on the margins UN general assembly to grant him clemency and sought his release. The news of his release last year turned out be a wicked joke for his family, and perhaps him: “Pakistani media reported that President Asif Ali Zardari had signed a document sent by the interior ministry commuting Sarabjit’s death sentence to life. A life sentence in Pakistan is generally 14 years, and Sarabjit, having spent 22 years in jail, was to be shortly released, the reports said. The news sparked celebrations in his home, while external affairs minister S M Krishna issued a statement of appreciation to Islamabad. Five hours later, Pakistan issued a statement denying the reports and holding the media responsible for the confusion. It announced that the release order had in fact been for another prisoner, Surjeet Singh, who was pardoned in 1989“.

Indian government always held that Sarabjit Singh was not an Indian Spy and was not involved in the terrorist activity he was accused of. It is high time now that Indian government puts in public domain the proof of his innocence, if it has one. However, the extent to which the establishment has gone to “revere” Sarabjit Singh is possibly out of the sense of guilt that it can’t openly admit he was indeed an Indian spy and therefore a true martyr; not just someone who has been brutally murdered by his fellow Pakistani inmates in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. Considering that usually it is the lot of a spy to die unsung, unclaimed and unloved, Sarabjit Singh has at least got his due, if only in death, and for unrelated tragic reasons.
PS: Sadly, the competitive jingoism made its way to Indian prison as well. A day after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh died of his injuries after being assaulted in a Lahore jail, a Pakistani prisoner –Sanaullah Ranjay- in a Jammu jail was seriously injured Friday following an attack with bricks and a shovel by another inmate. Jammu’s jail called coincidentally Kot Bhalwal joined its brotherly institution across the border of Lahore’s Jail -Kot Lakhpat in a disgraceful march of infamy- A tragic reflection on the state of India-Pakistan ties.
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