Bhikhiwind (Punjab), May 3 (IANS) Tens of thousands of people thronged this Punjab town Friday to be part of the last journey of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoner killed in a brutal attack in a Pakistani prison.
The town saw an unprecedented number of people arriving since morning, wanting to show solidarity with Sarabjit. Police had a tough time controlling the sea of humanity that had converged for the cremation.
The crowds, which braved the blazing sun, shouted slogans against Pakistan and its leaders.
Every vantage point — be it a wall, roof, pole, vehicle or anything else — was taken over by people.
Sarabjit will be cremated with full state honours. A number of politicians and others are expected to attend the cremation.
The Punjab government has announced a three-day state mourning for Sarabjit.
The body, placed in a wooden coffin and draped in the tri-colour, was brought for its final journey to his native town past midnight.
His family and friends wailed as the body was brought to his house, marking the end of his journey of torture and despair, that lasted nearly 23 years.
As an Indian Air Force helicopter equipped with night-landing facility landed at a special helipad, Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur, earlier a picture of strength, appeared completely shattered.
She touched the coffin as it was brought out from the helicopter.
Sarabjit’s body was flown in a special Air India flight from Lahore to Amritsar around 7.40 p.m. Thursday. From Amritsar, it was transported to Bhikhiwind by chopper.
Late Thursday night, doctors from the Amritsar Medical College conducted a post-mortem of the body as per the wishes of Sarabjit’s family.
This was done at the government hospital in Patti, 40 km from Amritsar.
“We have conducted the post-mortem examination. There were injury marks on his head and other parts of the body,” Gurmeetjeet Singh, a doctor, told reporters.
This was the second autopsy on Sarabjit’s body; the first was conducted Thursday morning by a medical board in Lahore.
Sarabjit’s body was handed over to Indian high commission officials in Lahore Thursday afternoon.
Shops and other establishments, including educational institutions, in this town remained closed Friday also. These had remained shut Thursday.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced a financial grant of Rs.1 crore for Sarabjit’s family. He said Punjab would give government jobs to both his daughters.
The 49-year-old Sarabjit 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 had been arrested in Pakistan after crossing the international border in an inebriated state August 1990.
He was charged with being an Indian spy who carried out bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990 which left 14 people dead and awarded the death penalty by Pakistani courts.
But his hanging was stayed indefinitely in April 2009.
His family maintained that his was a case of mistaken identity and Sarabjit had nothing to do with the blasts in Pakistan.