NEW DELHI — The killing of an Indian prisoner by inmates in a Pakistani jail has fueled deep anger and demands for justice in India. The incident is likely to deepen mistrust between the neighboring nations.
Sarabjit Singh died of serious head injuries, early Thursday, in a hospital in the Pakistani city of Lahore, days after being assaulted with bricks by fellow prisoners.
Singh had been in a jail in Lahore for 22 years. He was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for spying and for his role in bomb attacks that killed 14 people in Pakistan in 1990. His family has always insisted he was framed after he strayed across the border.
In a statement, Pakistan’s foreign office said it had given the best possible treatment to Singh and doctors had worked around the clock to save his life.
But that did not satisfy people in India, who are expressing outrage at the prisoner's death.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led nationwide demands that those responsible for the Indian prisoner’s death be brought to justice. Singh tweeted that it was particularly regrettable that the Pakistani government did not heed the pleas to take a humanitarian view of the case.
The Indian government and family members had urged Pakistan to let Singh return to India for treatment following the attack.
Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said Pakistan must be held accountable for what he calls the murder of an Indian citizen in cold blood. “The human rights of an Indian citizen have been violated," he said. "And, India will not only take it up with Pakistan but, if necessary, take it up at appropriate international fora.”
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said the issue has damaged the goodwill between the citizens of the two countries. In the last decade, there have been sustained efforts by people and civil society to move past the political hostility between their countries and build bridges.
“Governments can sometimes disagree. Governments can sometimes sit down and talk. But sustainable and long-lasting relationship has to be between people and I think that today's been very, very sadly and in a very distressing manner that is a relationship that has been hurt by this terrible tragedy,” Khurshid stated.
A fiery response by the prisoner’s sister, Dalbir Kaur, called for severing ties with Islamabad.
Kaur calls her brother’s death an attack on India. She said it is time for the entire country to unite and retaliate. She accuses Pakistan of stabbing India in the back.
Opposition parties slammed the government for not taking a tough stand with Pakistan and not putting enough pressure for the prisoner’s return to India.
This is the latest incident that threatens the slow moving peace process between the two countries.
Earlier this year, tensions had risen because of the death of two Indian soldiers and three Pakistani soldiers along their disputed Kashmir border.