Sarabjit, Sanaullah & We

By Ravi Nitesh,

india-pak_350_010213025344Attack and death of an Indian prisoner and alleged spy named Sarabjit Singh in a prison at Pakistan followed anger and dismay in India. Some people came out on streets to protest against Pakistan, flood of nationalist jingoism observed on social media, people started challenging once again the peace activists who talk about Indo-Pak Peace. Role of media was quite obvious, finding techniques to increase TRP and selling emotions over the national trauma.

Another day, a Pakistani prisoner named Salauddin gets attacked in India, in an Indian prison situated in outskirts of Jammu in J&K. On day, again new news outpoured from the media about ‘missing organs of Sarabjit’.

On all these things, it is the common man of both sides who is in dilemma, shock and confusion to make it truth and crystal clear and to find its own scope to react.

Sarabjit got attacked in jail in Pakistan. It was obviously a failure of state of Pakistan. Failure in terms of safety of an Indian prisoner. Sarabjit was a prisoner, who was victim of ‘mistaken identity’ (as per his advocate in Pakistan). Therefore, as per the advocate and case, he was innocent and he could not be victimized for the crime that he had not committed.

On the other hand, Sarabjit was already a prisoner awarded death penalty by court of law with due process. It was the government of Pakistan that held the execution in view of the request by Sarabjit family and govt of India and later it was converted in life term by the Govt of Pakistan as a confidence building measure and on ‘mercy appeal’.

Sarabjit as alleged and convicted was an Indian spy who crossed the border illegally. He was a main accused under a serial bomb blast case where at least 14 persons lost their lives.

His family claims that he crossed the border ‘by mistake in drunken mode’.

If we remember, we must know that another Indian prisoner named Surjit came some months ago to India after his release from a prison of Pakistan. It was a moment when happiness and good relations were sought through this release.

It became unfortunate after a day in India when Surjit accepted before Indian media that he was originally an Indian spy in Pakistan working for RAW and he was angry because after his arrest, RAW never came for his help.

Was it not unfortunate? Can we imagine what would happen to all those who were in Pakistan and were campaigning for better relations? Can we imagine what would happen to all Indian prisoners who were in jails in Pakistan? Can we imagine what would happen to his advocate who after his hard work succeeded in release of Surjit? Can we imagine what would happen and what would be the reaction of India and Indians if the same incident would happen vice versa for a Pakistani prisoner released by India?

Death of Sarabjit was obviously unfortunate. If we go to probable causes, there may be many. It is true that general view about Sarabjit in Pakistan was not good and sympathetic as he was accused of serial bomb blast. That is why common people were against him. It was same as here in India, general public was against any mercy to Afzal, an Indian terrorist accused of Parliament attack. One more similarity in these two was that both got death penalty by court of law while solid evidence was not available. Also see that govt of India went for ‘secretive hanging’ of Afzal and probably saved itself from extremist nationalist lobby who had a point to finger and encash the votes.  (Please note that this paragraph is not to justify rather just comparing the two similar cases regardless of nationality)

In view of these facts, the reasons of attack on Sarabjit can be a planned work of present government or any other political group, who in view of the probable polarization of votes or to remove the point of vote polarization made it. On the other hand it can also be as a result of anger of individual with/without involvement of govt/officials and with ‘loopholes’ in prison system and administration made it.

We questioned upon the safety in prison and shouted upon Pakistan government for not making prison security enough for Indian prisoner. We at that time forget that prisons have so many loopholes and corruption that many crimes can be committed within prison. It is true of India and Pakistan both and it really needs lot of improvement.

What will you say when after the Sarabjit’s death, Indian authorities issued high alert warning across the country to improve prison security in all jails specially where any Pakistani prisoner is behind bars. What will you say that even after this advanced instructions, and advance probability of attacks over Pakistani prisoners in India, a jail in Jammu witnessed an attack over a Pakistani prisoner. Was it not a total failure at India end too? Will we accept that it was not only due to the loopholes in prison system but also a total ignorance and failure even after well advance instructions? Will it mean that our prison system of security cannot secure even some specific persons about whom they were already being informed for probability of attack? Or on the same pattern, you will accept that plan and conspiracy of govt/official or political groups? Who is more culprit?

Later again in a incident , it was found during second autopsy that some organs including brain, stomach and heart and kidney are missing from Sarabjit body. Newslines poured with so many news items and headlines upon these. Leaders issued statements. It was again another mistake from Pakistan side that organs were missing. Though it is also true that in a defined procedure of autopsy, doctors remove the organs from body and many times do not put it back due to many reasons. A website forensic india reads, In many institutions, the sliced organs are just poured back into the open body cavity. In other places, the organs are not replaced but just incinerated at the facility. It also reads that Ultimately, what is buried/cremated is either 1) the body without a brain and without any chest, abdominal, or pelvic organs, or 2) the body without a brain but with a hodgepodge of other organ parts in the body cavity.

In the case, though it was fault of Pakistan that it removed the organs and did not put it back, there are so many things that can spread about. Wikipedia tell that In UK, as per their policy Human Tissue Act 2004 all organs and tissue must be returned to the body unless permission is given by the family to retain any tissue for further investigation. Normally the internal body cavity is lined with cotton wool or an appropriate material, the organs are then placed into a plastic bag to prevent leakage and returned to the body cavity. The chest flaps are then closed and sewn back together and the skull cap is sewed back in place. Then the body may be wrapped in a shroud and it is common for relatives to not be able to tell the procedure has been done when the body is viewed in a funeral parlor after embalming.

It is true again that if Pakistan would adopted the same, it could become a reason of more shout and anger against Pakistan.

Whatever the reason or chronology may be, I am quoting here a line that some volunteers of peace campaign told about this case, ‘in this competition to prove who is more inhumane, do you know who died? The Human.

What I believe is that many such things could be avoided with proper coordination. Though the coordination is not there anywhere on the part of these governments, but I think that atleast in such sensitive matters, coordination is required, not to give preference to other, rather to provide transparency and to develop trust on own work. Even autopsy could be done with a joint team of Indian and Pakistani doctors rather than first and second autopsy. Even the inquiry in both sides of jails for these attacks can be done with a joint team of India and Pakistan police.

And after end of this episode of hate, once again it became necessary to think about fate of all such prisoners who are behind bars after award of penalty or as under trials and surviving in India and Pakistan. At present approx 600 Indian prisoners are in Pakistani jails and 300 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. The pity fact is that they are spread over so many prisons across both sides of borders and therefore a centralize system for their safety, speedy trials and special courts are unavailable to them. I wonder if govt of India and Pakistan can adopt any such activity in which all their prisoners can get a centralize location for proper tracking, safety and arrangements and special courts can be made them available for speedy justice. I wonder if governments can make wonders by treating a prisoner as a human being rather than making them escape goats.

The writer, a peace activist based in Delhi, heads social group Mission Bhartiyam

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