The name Sarabjit Singh would have remained unknown to us if fate hadn’t struck him and dragged him in between the belligerent relationship shared by the two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan. Sarabjit was an ordinary man, a farmer from Punjab’s Bhikhiwind. He was living an ordinary life of a farmer, a loving husband, a caring brother and a responsible father. What turned Sarabjit’s ordinary life into a heart-wrenching journey of pain and ordeal was just a single mistake. A mistake of straying on an unmarked Indo-Pakistan border area in an inebriated state.
He was arrested at the Kasur border on the night of August 30, 1990. Soon after that, he was tried and convicted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as a terrorist for a series of bomb attacks in Lahore and Faisalabad in 1990. An unconfirmed Indian source also added to his plight and told Pakistan that he was a working undercover for RAW. After a brief trial in the Lahore High Court, the Supreme Court condemned him and sentenced him to death in 1991, but it was repeatedly postponed by the Government of Pakistan.
“I am innocent”
He was kept in solitary confinement for over 19 years inside a small cramp cell without sufficient space for him to stand upright. For all his years in jail, he had maintained his innocence from the outset. He had told the authorities again and again that he belonged to a village near Amritsar in the Punjab, married, with two daughters, both of whom were toddlers at the time of his arrest.
Activists and people’s efforts to get him released went in vain
There were numerous efforts made to release him. Singh’s family had moved to the Indian Parliament and then to many prominent Pakistani politicians. Several mercy petitions were filed by his lawyer. Even online campaigns and signature collections were made for his release. Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of her brother since his arrest and continued to do so. But all these efforts went in vain as the then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf had denied his release on the ground that it was out of the statutory limitation period.
Death and suspected state role in it
In an unfortunate turn of events, Sarabjit Singh was attacked by his inmates in Kot Lakphat Prison in Lahore on April 25, 2013. It is understood that he was left bleeding for more than two hours by the prison officials before he was admitted to a hospital, where he was declared brain dead. On May 2, 2013, he was reported dead. It is believed that the murder was facilitated by the State; the perpetrators used sharp objects and bricks made available to them in a high-security prison to attack Sarabjit. This attack took place during the run-up to the elections in Pakistan.