“All of India and the entire world know I am Sarabjit Singh, son of Sulakhan Singh, resident of Indian Punjab. I am in a Pakistan jail counting the days of my life. It has been a long way since freedom and who else can understand this ordeal more than me. The high-ups from Pakistan went to every limit to prove me Manjit Singh. All had teamed up to prove this; even the co-occupants of the jail say that I had planted the bombs. Nevertheless I am indebted to my advocate Awais Sheikh. His tireless efforts have been fruitful. Sheikh Awais Sahib has finally located the real accused Manjit Singh. He had remained in Pakistan and when I was caught as Manjit Singh, he was still here. He was turned out from here and toured Englandand Canada instead of going back to India. Eventually he was apprehended there. I will not go in the details here. You will read about this in Awais Sheikh Sahib’s forthcoming book. It was on the night between 29 and 30 August that I had left my motherland and stepped inside Pakistan. The secret agency of Pakistan rounded me up and produced me in the court as Manjit Singh. The court paid no heed to the fact that every accused should be given a chance of proving his innocence, and gave me death sentence. The day I was captured, I was handed over to the secret forces. This force was active in propaganda against India besides brain washing the youth of India to use them for sabotage in Indian Punjab. This is a Federal Investigation Unit. The night I was brought in Lahore I was given a guard of honour; I was unable to tell who was beating me and from which side.
I was blindfolded and two policemen were holding my handcuffs. Constantly thrashing they pushed me into a room and locked it. I was exposed to torture throughout the night and kept awake till morning. I was given a piece of bread and tea in a plastic cup at the break of day. I felt asleep on filling my stomach. Suddenly I was awakened by a thud on my body; I got up in confusion to find a soldier in uniform. He must have kicked me with his boot. He ordered me to get up or receive another one. I badly wanted to save my ribs in order to not spend the rest of the life on the bed. I was the only bread winner of my family.
I was confident that I had only crossed the border by mistake which is not such a great crime at all, I will soon regain my lost freedom. But destiny had decided something else. I quickly got on my feet, the man handcuffed me behind the back, blindfolded and pulled me to a room. A plain-clothed man was sitting there who I learned later, was Major Ghulam Abbas. He abruptly said, “You are Manjit Singh.” I said no. He nodded to his solider. I was still handcuffed but eyes were open now. The soldier replied, “Sir he will not accept in this way. We will do the trick.” With this they started beating me again. My hue and cry fell on deaf ears. I was by then thinking that they were mistaken. There is something else to the case. On announcement of the punishment the police and the squad came to know of that something else.
I someday plan to write my life story and it will contain all the details. At last I was turned to a Manjit Singh. Now I was not accused but convicted for crime. The courts in Pakistan, “I have judged only on hearing the side of the story told by the police.” They don’t go in details of the witness nor see the exploitation of the police. The judges, I have seen bow easily to any political pressure. Instead of doing justice they end up being part of the game. Secondly, in their hearts they are afraid of the power of the police. The second reason has many angles to it. The police and judiciary often work in the same way.
If there happens to be a Government case against a person then only Allah, Bhagwan, Wahe Guru can save the person, otherwise police would do all sorts of injustice. On 1 July 1991, I was produced in the court of Justice Aslam for the first time. Here I would like to tell about this too because he was the one who gave a U-turn to my case. M. Aslam Shami used to demand a bribe for deciding the case. It was heard that he was keeping actress Nadra as a friend. He was given to drinking and spent 4 to 5 lakhs per month. When I knew all this I tried to approach him too but contacting him was difficult. Only two sentences were upheld in his court while all the other were acquitted. One was mine and the other was of Ghulam Sakhi Khan alias Syed Gul. Why was this so? I shall pen down this at a later date. On my appearance in the court I said to the judge, “Judge Sahib I am Sarabjit Singh not Manjit Singh. I am being made Manjit Singh by force.” The judge brushed off my argument by saying, “I shall do the complete Justice.” The justice he did is in front of everyone to see. He inquired from the police about the challan and they asked for sometime. A date was fixed giving them upto 15 days. The challan was not produced on that day so another date for 5 to 6 days was fixed. On production of the challan the case started. One case was of Faislabad explosion. In every case the police brought their own informer as witnesses. They shut me in cell no 15 for the so called investigation and there they showed me to their people and told them to recognise me as Manjit. When the people who had seen me in the cell came for witness, I raised my voice in the court, “They are not genuine.” The judge wrote in his file that the necessary proceedings have not been carried out in jail. My lawyer at that time was Tassawar Hussain Qureshi who was a retired Session Judge. He told me that this judge is bent upon punishing you but the High Court will give you justice.
Many of the witnesses confided to me that they have been told in the police custody that this man is Manjit Singh. Many went forward to confess that they had been compelled to give witness. The witness of the causalities is crucial. They clearly stated that they had no idea who exploded the bombs. 12 August was the turn of the defense in the court. I asked the judge to call Major Ghulam Abbas because he had in his first statement given full history of my arrest. But he had put my arrest on the next day. This was quite a strange practice for me. In his first statement he had told that when I got arrested the date was 30 August. When the entry register was presented the date there was 31 August. Now the Major had to change his statement that I had been arrested from the border on 31 August. When witnesses appeared Magistrate Khalid was included in them. He said that Manjit Singh had confessed in his presence. When asked about appearance he told that I was wearing a cap. At that time there had been important witnesses that went in my favour. The case through these could have taken a U-turn. There was another hearing on 11 July 1992. The judge had said that there should be no argument, so Major Ghulam Abbas was present at the court. The Government lawyer told him that he is going to be acquitted, so do something. One can well gather about what major Abbas must have told that judge in his room. The judge adjourned the case till 15 August 1992. 15 August was Independence Day of India. On this day I was given the sentence of death. I could not help laughing at this cruel gesture. Returning to jail I was slowly repeating to myself:
‘Kar Chaley ham fida jano o tan sathiyon
Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyon’,
or as is said in Punjabi folklore:
‘Putt Jattan day maran lagy des te
Hans hans jaan war key’.
At that moment I was thinking to myself if these lines and words would ever be known to my countrymen. I had to wait for 15 years to know the answer. In 2005 my fellowmen not only told me but the entire world said that this is Sarabjit Singh. I must tell the dwellers of India that I am your servant, yours slave because of your love. When my file reached High Court, all the evidence in my favour had vanished in the air. I would allow the press to delete or edit any line they consider unnecessary. To all the people of India I wish Dhanevad (Salaam, Namskar, Sat Sri Akal) because you did come out to support a dejected person. You have showed all the world that irrespective of religion we are one and have no hatred in our hearts. Those who shown hatred will be defeated eventually.
Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore
30 November 2010.
Hai preet jahan ki reet sada
Main geet wahan kay gata hoon
Bharat ka rahnay wala hoon
Bharat ki shan barhata hoon
I brought a few letters along with me on my visit to India on 14 August 2012. Sarabjit claimed in his letter addressed to Sonia Gandhi (published in the last edition) about ill treatment, mental torture being given besides something being mixed or given in his food which is affecting his body. He feels pain in his left leg and arm, the body is getting weaker day by day. “They want to kill me.” wrote Sarabjit. In my meeting with the President Pranab Mukherji, I assured him that immediately after going back my first priority would be to meet the jail authority, Home Secretary and will bring to the notice of President, Prime Minister of Sarabjit’s health condition and cruel behavior by jail staff. That he should be treated in accordance with legal rights provided and protected by the Jail Manual, the Constitution ofPakistan and International laws.
If needed, I will go to the court of Law. In response to the letter of Sarabjit the Government of India took immediate steps/action and directed the Indian High Commission to look into it. The Indian High Commission sought counselor access and met Sarbajit in jail.
This is the moral and legal abligation of both countries to safeguard and protect the rights of prisoners confined in their jails.
The issue of prisoners is as important as other issues and I am happy to see that this issue was taken up by the Foreign Minister’s talks held at Islamabad on 7 September 2012.
(To be continued)