New Delhi: A forced taped confession is the only video Indians have seen of death row convict Sarabjit Singh, yet he has lived in the Indian conscience for more than two decades. Sarabjit Singh was arrested in 1990 on charges of spying and planting bombs that killed 14 people in Pakistan. He insisted he was innocent. The FIR against him had the name of Manjit Singh, and he was never provided a decent legal defence.
Despite the injustice, the Indian government didn't take his case up strongly. Instead, it was Sarabjit Singh's sister Dalbir Kaur who made repeated pleas with visiting Pakistani leaders for him. Dalbir Kaur met Pakistan minister Rehman Malik when he came to India in December 2012.
In 2008, the Pakistani government finally relented on her demand to see Sarabjit in prison. She was able to see him just twice, once in 2008, once in 2011.
President Asif Ali Zardari suspended Sarbjit's sentence in 2008, but never released him, even as he freed others who Sarabjit shared his cell with, including Surjeet Singh, Kashmir Singh, and Gopal Dass. Surjeet had then said that Sarabjit was well and just wanted to come home.
But that was never to be. When Indian prisoner Chamel Singh was killed in the Lahore jail in January this year, and anger grew in Pakistan over Afzal Guru's hanging in February, officials in Pakistan and India should have taken the threat to his life more seriously. But the real tragedy? They ignored Sarabjit's own pleas that his life was under threat, writing in March to his sister, and telling his lawyers to save him.