Return of India’s Prodigal Son
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him “a brave son of India”; his dead body was flown in from Lahore in a special Air India aircraft chartered by the Government of India to Rajasansi Airport Amritsar where political leaders including Indian Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur, were present to receive the body. Thence onwards the body was airlifted by a chopper for Patti and was delivered to his family at Bikhiwind by a ceremonially attired contingent of Police led by SSP Taran Taran for a state funeral planned for the next day.
The Indian Punjab Government declared a three days state mourning , bringing the flags to half mast and announcing a financial assistance of one crore for the bereaved family. The entire Indian media locked onto the event with a rarely displayed level of appreciative enthusiasm. Lamenting India’s loss, minister for foreign affairs, Salman Khurshid paid homage ; “We are going to issue a statement in Parliament . It is terrible psychological and emotional set back for us. We deeply regret his death. We are extremely angry”, he said while articulating India’s national mood. On all accounts it appeared as if Sarabjeet Singh , who had been awaiting the hangman’s noose at Kot Lakhpat Jail Lahore for around a decade for committing acts of terrorism in Pakistan was not a terrorist but an Indian hero and a patriot who had done his country proud by laying down his life in service of his nation.
It may appear incongruous yet there certainly is a method in the madness underlying Sarabjeet’s tumultuous homecoming; but before that a few words highlighting his profile and subversive deeds. In 1990, when the unprecedented Kashmiri uprising erupted in the IHK, Indian agencies launched a spate of bombers across the border in Pakistan to commit acts of terrorism. It was in this context that Sarabjit was infiltrated into Punjab to unleash a sequence of bomb blasts in Pakistan by his Indian Intelligence handlers. During his two and a half month long bombing spree he killed fourteen Pakistanis including children and injured at least fifty four people at various locations in Lahore, Faisalabad and Kasur. According to his confession, the Indian intelligence paid him for every blast, incrementally raising the reward money, as he went about in the pursuit of his deadly mission. It is a measure of his heartlessness, and that of his handlers, that for a paltry reward of Rs. 36500 he dipped his hands in the blood of innocent people and would have continued to do so, had he not been caught by the Pakistan Rangers as he crossed into Pakistan in Kasur Sector in August 1990. He was afforded the opportunity to defend himself in various tiers of the judicial system of Pakistan and his death sentence was confirmed by country’s apex court. A mercy petition launched before the President of Pakistan was also rejected.
Sarabjeet Singh’s conviction in Pakistan on charges of terrorism proved beyond doubt India’s involvement in state sponsored acts of terrorism and has bared a well established pattern woven by her intelligence agencies to keep pushing a steady stream of spy-terrorists across the fenced border, from trapdoors, whose keys are held by the BSF. Sarabjit Singh’s death in the Kot Lakhpat Jail is a sad affair; as all deaths invariably are. It is a pity that the circle of justice could not complete its logical run in case of the Indian terrorist. Yet the manner of his posthumous welcome in India poignantly underscores some harsh realities of the Indo-Pakistan state relations
First, the Sarabjit saga convincingly establishes the fact that Indian spy agencies are involved in conducting state sponsored acts of terrorism in Pakistan from behind a thick smokescreen of allegations projecting India as a victim of cross border terrorism. It is worth recollecting that in December 2001 following the attack on Indian Parliament, India ordered, within days, the largest ever mobilization of Armed Forces on the pretext that Pakistan was behind that act of terrorism and the sub-continent teetered on the brink of a nuclear conflagration for the next ten months. The investigations and the judicial procedure that followed culminated at the Indian Supreme Court whose verdict coming almost five years after the attack, didn’t even remotely point an accusing finger at Pakistan. But if India felt any remorse over its trigger happy response, it didn’t show it. Pakistan, on the contrary , has a water tight case in underscoring India’s state sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and this is a major reason for the Indian State to cover the terrorism related antecedents of the dead terrorist through heaping of the official accolades.
Second, a hero’s welcome accorded to the body of Sarabjeet reflects a well woven Indian national consensus in hiding the ugly reality of India’s state sponsored terrorism directed against Pakistan. It is amazing how the Indian political leadership, media, intelligentsia and the establishment have joined hands in spin – doctoring the profile of a convicted terrorist into a blundering simpleton who made his entry into Pakistan in the stupor of a drunken haze; notwithstanding his conviction on terrorism related charges in Pakistan’s apex court. The projection of his family in media of both the countries has turned the issue into an emotional one without underscoring the acts of terrorism that he committed and the misery and pain he wrought upon a large number of families in Pakistan whose dear ones lost their lives to his wanton craze of committing terrorism for a few bucks and pleasing his Indian spymasters.
Third, the episode has also brought into focus the rampant exploitation of unemployed youth of the border villages by the Indian agencies who entice them through well known traps employed by the practitioners of the spy craft. Unemployed and penniless, young men in the Indian border belt with Pakistan are more than willing to undertake espionage and terrorism in Pakistan. The life is good as it lasts but the dream is shattered once caught in a foreign land. After going through investigations, judicial process and the ensuing punishment in jails, once these battered individuals land back in their country, and begin to pick up threads of their shattered lives, the reality dawns that they had been exploited and now stand discarded. In an environment of all pervading gloom, many contemplate suicide; some even have the naïveté to approach the Indian courts for compensation. The pageantry and fanfare associated with Sarabjeet funeral is manifestly an Indian attempt to glorify those who perpetrate acts of terrorism on behest of the Indian intelligence set up by casting him in a patriot’s mould.