The sufferings of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian national sentenced to death for a series of bomb attacks in the 1990s, continue. Indeed, things have grown markedly worse for a man who has already served more than the usual life-term. His family has claimed mistaken identity in the case and New Delhi continues to campaign for Sarabjit’s release on humanitarian grounds.
But right now, the prisoner struggles desperately for life. He is reported to be in a state of coma, following an attack by fellow prisoners. It is, for now, impossible to say what his fate will be. Sarabjit appears to have been hit with bricks, rods and possibly other weapons inside his cell after other inmates broke inside, overpowering the guards posted outside. It is hard to understand how such an incident could have taken place in jail and why intervention did not come earlier, before Sarabjit reached a point where life and death were barely separated. Questions must also be asked as to why he was kept in the prison hospital for some days, rather than being shifted immediately to a better equipped facility outside.
There are other issues, too. The attack on Sarabjit does not appear to have been entirely spontaneous. It is hard to believe that a gang of prisoners acted alone. We must ask, too, why more security was not provided to Sarabjit, who had apparently been receiving threats, notably since February this year, when Afzal Guru was hanged in India. His counsel had pointed this out. Several members of the prison staff, including the deputy superintendant, have been suspended. But we must hope this action is not merely cosmetic; that it goes beyond that and all the perpetrators of a truly heinous crime against a helpless man are duly punished, while also taking steps to protect other Indian nationals in jails across the country before other acts of brutality are directed against them. A terrible tragedy has occurred. We must act to prevent others of a similar nature occurring, even as we wait to see what becomes of Sarabjit.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2013.