The recent death of Kripal Singh, an Indian imprisoned in the Kot Lakhpat Jail – also known as Central Jail of Lahore – of Pakistan, under supposedly mysterious circumstances, continues the trend of Indians dying in Pakistani prisons. The most prominent name in this list is definitely Sarabjit Singh, who had died in Lahore after being attacked in his cell by other inmates. Kripal had been in Pakistan since 1992, and just like Sarabjit, he had been arrested and charges of spying and terror activities had been levelled against him. The exact reasons of his death would be made known after the autopsy report is conducted.
A heart attack
Some reports have incidentally suggested that Kripal may have suffered a cardiac arrest at the hospital where he had been admitted after he had complained of chest pain. Kripal is originally from a village named Mustafabad Saidan at Gurdaspur, Punjab. Just like Sarabjit, he had crossed over into the Pakistan side of the border – unintentionally – in 1991. He was drunk as well. After the circumstances, which led to the death of Sarabjit in the same jail in 2013, Kripal’s family had appealed to the Indian Government to step in and make sure that he remained safe in jail. However, their appeal fell on deaf ears.
Getting the dead body back
The family members and relatives of Kripal are now asking the Indian Government to make sure that his body can be retrieved so that the last rites can be performed properly. According to his family, the last time they heard from Kripal was a couple of letters, which he had incidentally written in Urdu. In his earlier letters, Kripal had indicated to his family that he was living in poor circumstances. He also stated that the inmates had to face some worrying treatment. Incidentally, Kripal had served in the army.
Death of Indian fishermen in Pakistan
A couple of months back, two fishermen from Gir Somnath district in Gujarat also lost their lives in jails of Pakistanl. Their dead bodies were supposed to be sent to their near and dear ones on 14 April.
The two fishermen have been identified as Ratandas Makwana and Vaaga Bijal Chauhan. Chauhan is from Dandi and Makwana is a native of Nanavada. Chauhan passed away on 22 December 2015 while Makwana breathed his last on 8 February 2016. Both of them died during incarceration. Both were apprehended in April 2015 when their boats allegedly ventured into Pakistan’s territorial waters. They were fishing at the Sir Creek area of Arabian Sea. The post-mortem of the bodies has been conducted in Islamabad and their bodies were sent from Karachi.
Apart from pressure being exerted by the families, a number of MPs and NGOs had been asking the Indian Government to step in and make sure that the fishermen’s bodies could be brought back to India.
Chauhan’s wife Lekhiben had been critically ill ever since he went fishing on an ill-fated day in April. His son, Suresh, had been under considerable duress as well. Suresh, meanwhile, has alleged wrongdoing in his father’s death. He has stated that his apprehensions were confirmed when some fishermen among the 172 released in March by Pakistan as a goodwill gesture complained that they had faced bad treatment. He also questioned the reason for keeping his father’s dead body for such a long time in a morgue.
As far as Indians who died in Pakistani jails are concerned Sarabjit Singh is the most well-known. On 30 August 1990, he was arrested in Kasur, an area on the Indo-Pak border, by Pakistani Rangers. At that time, it was stated that he was merely a drunk farmer, who had stepped on the Pakistan side of the border purely by mistake. Initially, it was alleged that he was arrested for illegally crossing the border.
Lahore Police brought charges of spying and terror activities against him and he was thought to be Manjit Singh, one of the prime suspects in the terror blasts that devastated Lahore and Faisalabad during 1990. He was given a death sentence in 1991 under the Pakistan Army Act. Incidentally, later on, Manjit Singh was apprehended in Canada and then in India.
After his arrest, Sarabjit’s family had searched for him for 9 months but to no avail. Later on, they received a letter from him where he stated he had been arrested as Manjit Singh and he expressed his helplessness by saying that since he did not have any identification papers he could not prove his innocence. Singh’s lawyers tried to fight against the sentence but to no avail as even the Pakistan Supreme Court ruled against him. As has been pointed by Ansar Burney, a human rights activist of Pakistan, and Jas Uppal, a British lawyer, there were plenty of problems with the process of trial.
The key witness Shaukat Salim later on confessed that he had changed his statement under police pressure. However, as pointed out by Abdul Rana Hamid, Singh’s lawyer, these statements lacked legal veracity since they were not given in the court. Singh’s death sentence was, however, first postponed indefinitely and then on 26 June 2002, he was granted presidential pardon.
Physical Attack on Sarabjit inside the Prison
On 26 April 2013, he was attacked with weapons such as bricks, iron rods, sharp metal sheets, and blades by 2-6 inmates. He was admitted at the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore with severe injuries to his head and a broken spine. He was in coma and was placed in a ventilator.
It was alleged by his family that the jail authorities had a role to play in his death and it was all pre-planned. On 29 April 2013, India asked Pakistan to send Sarabjit back for proper treatment, but the appeal was rejected. He was declared brain dead on 1 May 2013 and on 2 May 2013 he breathed his last at 12:45 am.
His family also alleged that he was not treated properly and that the doctors tending to him had never provided a clear picture of his condition. His body was sent to India on the same evening in a special aircraft and after postmortem, Indian doctors said that his skull had been fractured into two pieces and several vital organs were missing. It was said that the attack happened after the hanging of Afzal Guru in February 2013.