27 April, 2013


What follows may not be appreciated by many, and may indeed be condemned by some. Yet the call of duty compels me to key this in. Sarabjeet has been grievously injured by fellow prisoners inside a Pakistani jail, lies in coma and may even perish. I offer my deepest sympathies to the aggrieved family. Undoubtedly this is a case of utter lawlessness in Pakistan and of extreme cruelty by his attackers. Pakistan must be ashamed of failing in its bounded duty to protect its prisoners. We should strongly condemn this dastardly attack – quite clearly motivated either by communal or narrow chauvinistic considerations. But I also suggest we should leave it at that. Here is why: The Pakistani government for all accounts seems to have acted swiftly after this failure, suspending the jail staff, nabbing the culprits, providing him with due medical care, granting consular access to Indian diplomats, etc Let’s see this ghastly incident in perspective. Sarabjeet was found guilty of killing 17 innocent civilian citizens of Pakistan in peace time, was tried and condemned to death by hanging. His clemency petition was rejected by the highest court and by the President of that country. He was to be hanged a long time ago but was kept alive – probably as a bargaining tool for some Pakistani prisoners in India. After the hanging of a Pakistani, Ajmal Kasab and more recently of a Kashmiri, Afzal Guru, clamour for hanging him increased. The silence of Pakistani government irked a number of Pakistanis, some certainly motivated by tit-for-tat. Nothing prevented Pakistan from hanging him then. Virtually on all major TV channels today I heard this story as the prime headline. For the last 30 odd hrs he remains prime news, what with interviews of his undoubtedly beleaguered relatives and ex-generals and ‘security experts’. I fail to understand how he – a killer by all accounts - becomes a hero merely by reason of a crime committed upon him. Or is it our case that killing ‘their innocent’ is passé? Or that their trial is not fair while ours is? We are no strangers to crime inside the jails either. Wasn’t the Delhi gang rapist similarly brutally attacked and is rumoured to have fallen to it? The ‘generals’ are even calling this an ISI conspiracy. The out of proportion media screaming strongly suggests jingoism and parochialism. I must clarify that I am questioning this undue hype, and am not condoning the attack. It was and remains a ghastly crime and must be so dealt with. But elevating Sarabjeet to almost the status of a hero embarrasses me and appears inhuman and distasteful. Unless we maintain that the pain of those 17 innocent victims is less than that of Sarabjeet’s. As always I welcome comments. Including criticism - in civil language if you please.

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