Religion should be treated as a personal affair. Good and bad people exist in every religion. God has not decreed that there should be only one religion. Allah has addressed at places in the Quran all of humanity. It seems that God loves diversity. There is diversity, variety and difference in the universe. Everything has a vast range of variety; like weather, colours, fragrance, human beings, animals, birds, vegetables, all creation has its diversity. Look at the human beings; they are different from each other in respect of face, features, voice, genes, so much so the lines of the hands are never similar. This is the beauty of life. Similarly God has created many religions. We should love the followers of all religions.
The Indian media played an important role in the campaign for the release of Sarabjit. It motivated the masses throughout the length and breadth of India. When the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave the order for the death sentence to Sarabjit in 1995 there was one united voice across India, “Sarabjit ko riha karo.” The people believe that he is innocent and his case was not properly presented before the court. Barrister Jes Uppal in the United Kingdom extended her all out support. She launched a website: www.freesarabjitsingh.com. I kept in touch to furnish needed information. I travelled extensively to major cities of India which helped in the essential networking.
People of all backgrounds, culture and races are in contact with me all over the world and express their support. Every time when I visit India, people recognise me as Sarabjit’s lawyer and chat with me, enquire about the case and health of Sarabjit. People in India are fully behind the man’s release.
I know the people in India are talking Sarabjit’s plight extremely seriously and they will continue to act in an appropriate manner to attempt to secure his reprieve and release. How and when he will be released, will be spared and will return to India is for Government of Pakistan to decide.
I am hopeful that the President of Pakistan, who has been empowered under Article 45 of the Constitution to pardon him, will consider the clemency appeals filed by a great number of people of India and will commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.
Travelling in a rickshaw in Delhi, a fellow passenger who was a Sikh residing in Canada paid my fare on learning I was Sarabjit’s lawyer. Similarly in Amritsar a canteen owner handed me some dry fruit as a gift for Sarabjit.
After seventeen days I was on my way home through Wagah border once again. Dalbir and her husband came to bid farewell and gave me Rs. 20,000 to contribute to the expenses I was making. She gave Rs. 5000 for Sarabjit as well. For me this tour had been very fruitful. I had brought with me the proofs of my client’s real identity. The school certificate with the stamp of the Pricipal Bhikiwind School. The admission number, date and year was mentioned. The certificate of the chief of the village Sarpanch, the certificate from the police station, ration card number with name and father’s name, voter’s list number, character certificate, certificate of member Panchayat etc. These are all very crucial documentary proofs that show that the original name of the prisoner is Sarabjit Singh, son of Salakhan Singh. The convict’s name is Manjit Singh. In Lahore, I showed all these proofs to the press. With this I prepared a fresh mercy petition to the Prseident of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, along with sending copies to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Interior Minister, Chief Justice and the Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the American ambassador in Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.
I informed Sarabjit about carrying Rs. 5000 for him from his sister. Sarabjit asked me to deposit the cash in his jail bank when I presented it to him. I was impressed by this discipline. He was abiding by the law which forbade the prisoners from carrying any cash. I also kept him informed about his domestic matters. For anyone serving solitary confinement for the last nineteen years, these meetings are a great blessing. I have the additional responsibility of kindling the flame of hope in my client. There is a word among the jail staff that Sarabjit has embraced Islam and his Islamic name is Sarfaraz. I never talked to Sarabjit about this as I believe that it is something personal – not to be interfered by the legal advisor.
Religion should be treated as a personal affair. Good and bad people exist in every religion. God has not decreed that there should be only one religion. Allah has addressed at places in the Quran all of humanity. It seems that God loves diversity. There is diversity, variety and difference in the universe. Everything has a vast range of variety; like weather, colours, fragrance, human beings, animals, birds, vegetables, all creation has its diversity. Look at the human beings; they are different from each other in respect of face, features, voice, genes, so much so the lines of the hands are never similar. This is the beauty of life. Similarly God has created many religions. We should love the followers of the religions.
Unfortunately, the clerics, priests, mullahs, pundits, gurus and other religious leaders have distorted the true spirit of religion. They have used prejudices and narrow mindedness. There has been immense bloodshed in the name of religion throughout history. The monarchs, sultans and other rulers had employed religion for extending their rule. Religious leaders were used by them for their own ends. They gave new interpretations to the original religion of God and made themselves representatives of God. They went to the extent of pitching one group against the other in the name of religion. They developed fear in their followers and taught them to consider the other religions as fake. Even today the big ‘feudals’ have united with the clergy to perpetuate their power.
Coming back to my meeting with Sarabjit, I presented him with a pair of power glasses. He was very pleased and promised me that he would try to write for my book although he had fears that the officials may object to this. It is true that with his obvious depression it was hard for him to focus on writing something. It will be worthwhile if he could write something from his cell about his dark days and sleepless nights spreading over 22 years. He could tell about the happenings and his case from his arrest to date. It would be a rare manuscript of a prisoner’s ordeal.
On 6 May 2010, Ajmal Kasab, the main character of Mumbai attacks was convicted by the High Court. Sarabjit’s sister called me out of sheer anxiety, to know if this decision would have adverse affect on Sarabjit. I consoled her that the two cases are of different nature though Sarabjit’s release will be the result of political and popular pressure from the international community.
– To Be Continued