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Of Sarabjit, Sanuallah, Guru and Butt


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The image shows Sanaullah Ranjay and schoolgirls mourning for Sarabjit Singh.
The image shows Sanaullah Ranjay and schoolgirls mourning for Sarabjit Singh.

Some three to four years ago Dalbir Kaur was in Lahore to visit her jailed brother Sarabjit Singh. She was in Lahore. I was in Bonn. I remember interviewing her from the Bonn studio for a radio program. She sounded sanguinely hopeful about the release of her brother and expressed her gratitude to some Pakistan-based human rights activists and a few other officials.

Like Kaur, I too had not imagined such a tragic end to Singh’s story. Sadly, he is no more.

The manner in which Singh, an Indian national convicted of spying and of playing a role in the bombings that killed several people in 1990, was assaulted inside Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail can only be termed as an inhuman act. There can be no two opinions about it. Similarly, what happened to Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay inside Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail is equally tragic and inhumane. This only highlights the security risks inside the prisons in both countries, with both India and Pakistan losing their right to claim moral high ground in relation to these two incidents.

But where Pakistan probably may enjoy a slight advantage over India is the manner in which the Pakistani state earlier dealt with Singh’s case and how it responded to the crisis after his death.

Not only had Pakistan previously allowed Singh’s sister, Kaur, to visit her jailed brother several times, the country also made adequate arrangements to hand over Singh’s body to India after his death which was the outcome of the assault on him.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited Singh’s home in Punjab and broke down while offering his condolences to Kaur. The state government of Punjab declared Singh a “martyr”. The Punjab assembly passed a resolution in this regard. Not only this, Singh’s mortal remains were cremated with full state honour and a financial assistance of one crore Indian rupees was announced for the family. These measures kick-started a debate in India, as many critics are asking questions about Singh’s “contributions” to his country India and to his state Punjab.

In Pakistan, the attack on Sanaullah Ranjay was largely seen as a tit-for-tat tactic. Ranjay, as per the details that have already emerged, was serving a life term and would often play a bagpipe during routine practices inside the prison. The critically injured Pakistani prisoner is currently undergoing treatment at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh where his condition is stated to be serious.

The chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah has assured the media that a “time-bound” enquiry will be conducted in this case.

“Certain steps have already been initiated. The jail superintendent and some other jail officials have been suspended (and) an enquiry has been ordered to be conducted by Principal Secretary Home (Department),” Abdullah was quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) as having told journalists in Srinagar.

But India’s record with regard to dealing with Pakistani prisoners like Ranjay, and other prisoners from Kashmir remains deplorable.

Moreover, there have been media reports quoting an unnamed source claiming that Singh was sent to Pakistan for an operation supervised by the Research Analysis Wing (RAW) — India’s premier spy and intelligence agency — but there are also some who maintain that Singh was an innocent caught in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

No parallels can be drawn between Kashmir’s Mohammad Afzal Guru and India’s Sarabjit Singh. It is common knowledge that on February 9 this year, India secretly hanged Afzal Guru who was convicted by the country’s Supreme Court in connection with his alleged involvement in the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.

Guru’s family was not even informed about his execution at Tihar jail. All standards of fundamental rights, jail manuals, and cardinal values were breached. Not only this, the Indian home ministry did not concede to the genuine demand of the family to have Guru’s body flown to Kashmir for a proper burial in the light of religious rituals. Guru may have been sent to the gallows to “satisfy the collective conscience of Indians” but for many in Kashmir, he remains a hero.

Similar maltreatment was meted out to Maqbool Butt, founder of pro-freedom outfit Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), in 1984. Butt’s mortal remains too stay buried inside Tihar jail. This treatment poses a serious question to the “world’s largest democracy” with regard to its human rights record.

It seems a clear message for the Kashmiris that the Indian state treats them as “people belonging to an enemy territory”. That is perhaps why the independent member of J&K’s legislative assembly from Langate area of Kashmir, Engineer Rashid, had this to say: “If Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and other Indian leaders pay homage to Sarabjit Singh and express sympathy with his family, they will have to give answers to Afzal Guru’s family and to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as to why Guru was martyred.”

”If Singh is a martyr in Shinde’s eyes, how is Guru a terrorist?” Rashid questioned.

Gowhar Geelani is a writer/journalist with international experience. He has served as Editor at Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) in Bonn, Germany. Previously, he has contributed features for the BBC. Feedback at (

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Comments (58) Closed

K K Verma May 10, 2013 11:31am

Sorry my dear, I totally disagree with your article. Afzal Guru, Sarabjit, Sanaullah, and Butt are totally differ from each other, and I think there are no similarity between sarabjit and Butt / Guru case, They are convicted from Hon. Supreme Court of India and hanged in jail. Hon. Supreme Court of Pak also convict Sarabjit and award death sentence for him. I have not blamed your supreme court or your investigation agency in Sarabjit Case. As you write about Punjab Government declare him as a martyr, but Indian Government totally denied to give him martyr remark. My dear we know the fact about Sarabjit and Sanaullah and also Butt and Guru.

pramod May 07, 2013 12:34pm
How come it is double standard. Sarabjeet singh was an indian caught in Pakistan for right or wrong reasons. He died in Pakistan . Calling him martyr might not be right because his contribution for India was not clear and any way no one in India takes Sushil kumar Shinde, Rahul Gandhi or anybody else from congress very seriously. May be it is a vote politics here. All Kashmiri are our brothers. Many Kashmiri hindu and Muslim are working with me and they are getting equal treatment as any body. But we can not wage war against our country be it Kashmiri or anybody else. Yasin Malik shared the stage with LeT chief in Pakistan, Afzal belongs to Jaish e Mohammed, a Pakistan based terrorist group lead by Maulana Masood Azhar. But how come you compare Sarabjit case with Afzal Guru who was an Indian national, caught in India for a terrorist attack in India. Zardari paid homage to Afzal Guru. Dawn now a days does not have same guts to call spade a spade which was there few months back. Perhaps under pressure from terrorist group or fundamentalist. You would not have seen the blogs by Faiza Mirza and Mobarak Haider in Dawn in last few months. I think it will not be posted or edited as per your convenience.
Kashif May 07, 2013 12:34pm
Indians always acting as per our expectations, doesn't look like they have grown up in 65 years..
Asif Kahsmiri May 07, 2013 11:33am
India shame on you for having double standards, Sarbajeet was a terrorist and got what he deserved
KaranB May 07, 2013 10:31pm
i cant say about others but i do read dawn off n on, coz its the only 'sensible' publication that i can find from pakistan
Kushal May 07, 2013 12:24pm
Doesn't it apply to you as well?
Ahmed Zeeshan May 07, 2013 12:05pm
i don't know why more people have dis liked it...Oh I got it,Indians cannot hear the truth.
NORI May 07, 2013 11:58am
Sarabjit's body was handed to India with several key parts - brain, heart, gallbladder and kidneys - missing. These organs are crucial for postmortem to identify the cause of the death. If Pakistan's clean and nothing to hide, why were the organs removed ?
ASH May 07, 2013 11:56am
This is yet another attempt by the Pakistani media to fabricate a version of facts clearly suited to conceal how the State of Pakistan has been complicit in deliberately creating trouble within its borders and outside. Respectable International Publications have handsomely recorded this expose. So why does this journalist or this publication (DAWN) continue to mollify the internal readership. Sir, truth will always prevail; irrespective of subversion by ill-meaning authors.
Omar May 07, 2013 10:58am
Double standards as usual by Indian government, it's ok when they do something but cry when it happens to them.
vicky May 07, 2013 06:33pm
amna and mr kashif for ur knowledge like to tell u 1st world always put tag of terrorist on pakistani people because they doing terrorist activities,2nd mr kashif we grown up lott thats y we becoming world fastest growing country,,,,u pakistani try how much u can try but u can nat stop us we will grow more and more,,and pakistani people can give negative marq for this we indian dont care about it.
Shahid May 07, 2013 01:20pm
Afzal Guru was a freedom fighter and Sarabjit a killer, a spy and a terrorist in another country as Far as that country is concerned. He killed at least 14 innocent people and be sure there are many like him even now active in that neighboring country; Now then they may not be criminals for India but across the border they are :)
Amna May 07, 2013 01:31pm
why we kept calling him Indian spy he is indian terorist ,he martyred 14 Paki people,why the Indians and the world always put a tag of terorist on Pakistani people?
Jalal Khan May 07, 2013 01:34pm
Please advise as to where is this coming from, if not, this is big lie!
Indian May 07, 2013 03:52pm
Guru was a conspiror and Singh was a mere scapegoat
KKhan May 07, 2013 01:55pm
Pakistanis are not wanted in India. Why can't we NOT get this simple fact? Why do we have to bother about what happens in India? Let's focus on Pakistan first.
Omar May 07, 2013 02:00pm
You sure it was sent that way or some poor Indians sold it on its way to the Indian government?
baryalay khan May 07, 2013 02:01pm
because an autopsy was done on his body in Pak and for an autopsy like u said these organs are essential and its not like u can put them back in there after performing autopsy.
rakesh May 07, 2013 03:49pm
was there any case going on him ? How many years does it take for the case to be completed ? Do you always want to take law in your hand ?
Imran May 07, 2013 03:46pm
This can not be apple to apple match .There is a difference here , Sarabjeet was foreign national and was killed by prisoner's in our jail , the judge did not order him to be hanged and hand over his body. On other hand Guru has undergone trial and was ordered to be hanged by Judiciary. There is no point of comparing here . We should have waited for judicial probe to be completed and not take the law in our hands. Hope we start understanding difference between right and wrong.
Jami Ahmed May 07, 2013 02:21pm
A well written article
Asif Kahsmiri May 07, 2013 02:26pm
i have an advise for u , dont read dawn, stick to TIMES OF INDIA.
Rao May 07, 2013 03:05pm
A biased article.....
ammariftikhar May 07, 2013 04:55pm
Geo Dawn!
KaranB May 07, 2013 10:24pm
well the big brother policy is just human nature, similar on the grounds of US. but aa your comments about india lacking moral ground from "cricket field to 1947" is considered, it totally uncalled for and lacks facts based analysis. you have to be very specific. i don't know about cricket, but for 1947 all i can say is that both the parties were equally responsible. I have seen pakistanis thinking they were the "Becharaas" of partition, which is totally untrue. so be specific.
Madan May 07, 2013 06:03pm
The history is the basis.
KaranB May 07, 2013 10:30pm
I biased article for sure, but still some sense of truth in it. We indians too havent been all that honest about things. our record of human rights, is dodgy too. but again, i think be it pak or india, when it comes to the grassroot level, who cares about human rights, right??
vicky May 07, 2013 06:38pm
world know real truth of pakistan so pleas dont try to teach us
sajid May 07, 2013 06:39pm
Looks like Indian read more Dawn than Pakistani.Indian lack moral grounds from cricket ground to pages of history from 14 august 1947. they claim to be elder brother but forgets to act like one..
Steve May 07, 2013 06:56pm
Baghat Singh was a terrorist.
Usman Chaudhri May 07, 2013 07:06pm
What happened with Singh in Jail is deplorable, but that does not hides that fact the he was declared to be guilty by the court, for killing 14 people.
Rahul May 07, 2013 07:16pm
Am an Indian IF sarabjit was involved in Bombs then he deserved the death he got....Same applies to Guru etc etc. If we Normal people (Non Murderers) start advocating for people who believed in killing innocents we are heading No where.....PLS Stop advocating for Terrorists(Any religion any man). Dieing is very painful and dieing without reason or logic is even more painful for both families and Victims themselves...
Abdullah Hussain May 07, 2013 07:38pm
Except for few showbiz characters I have not come across any Pakistani dying to visit or be appreciated by india & Indians. You are right we should care & talk least about India & care for ourselves. What is India, nothing special. Lets drift apart, thats OK.
caz May 07, 2013 08:50pm
You are obviously talking through the back of your head. If you applied your mind to read the anomalies in the judicial and police process even you would come to know better.
david May 07, 2013 10:57pm
dawn zindzbad
Siman brAr May 08, 2013 02:17am
In the end only love will save the world.
Jagjit Singh Sidhoo May 08, 2013 02:20am
It is the court verdicts in each case whether the individual is a terrorist, spy or fisherman that must be implemented . If we allow political parties to play politics with these individuals there will only be chaos .
Jey May 08, 2013 02:46am
"Looks like Indian read more Dawn than Pakistani" True brother!! This is either because the literacy rate is very low in pakistan or there are many in India that can read and comprehend english as a language and are willing to harbor the perceptions from the other side as well. The rest of your comment is not worth the paper that it is written on. Thanks.
Rahul May 08, 2013 02:49am
you better be...
Jey May 08, 2013 02:52am
So you are going to set your expectations for a country and expect it to act accordingly?? Wow. You need to work on you complex dude!!
Rahul May 08, 2013 02:54am
If Afjal Guru is Innocent for you.. then sarbajeet is Innocent for us...
Mahesh Verma May 08, 2013 03:42am
What stops you from growing is the ideologies that has been force upon your mind, right from the early age.
Daniel May 08, 2013 04:12am
My dear, only showbiz people from pak has access to india, that is why only they come. If india gives access to pak engineers to work in our world leading IT companies like TCS, Infosys and wipro or give pak students access to IIMs or IITs, all of them would be queing at the indian embassy.
DKS May 08, 2013 04:26am
That seems sensible approach - two nations can
rohan May 08, 2013 04:56am
An article with no substance........ just to provoke readers of both sides
Shubs May 08, 2013 05:05am
Just adult internet users in India will outnumber the entire population of Pakistan. And they have the freedom to visit whichever website they wish. I don't understand the problem here. As for your opinion on India, well, big surprise!
Devil May 08, 2013 06:12am
Brother :-) , you seem to be watching too many Hindi movies these days !! ;-) We are "just" two neighboring countries !!
shayarbadnam May 08, 2013 07:52am
khud ke ghar main lagi hai aag aur padosi pe has rahe ho.
kharasach May 08, 2013 07:54am
another propoganda article from land of pure
NS May 08, 2013 08:52am
If Sarabjit was involved in bombing.. I have no sympathy for him being jailed.. but still he should not have been killed in that manner and proper procedure should have been followed.. Sanaullah is caught with terrorism charges.. I am not sure if they are also true.. and for sure he does not deserve to be attacked and I am reading news every day hoping that he will survive and come out of it well.. I would not wish any attack like this to happen on Guru or Butt. However Guru has given TV interviews of attack on parliament being planned in which some people died. So he was guilty without doubt. Was he a freedom fighter or terrorist? Do freedom fighters plan attacks like this? He should however have been informed to the family and proper process should have been followed.
NS May 08, 2013 08:53am
why you claim that?
NS May 08, 2013 08:58am
I have been praying for Sanaullah as much as I had been praying for Sarabjit. What happened to him was absolutely wrong and the attacker is a coward and is a shame on India. I hope Sanaullah will come out of it unharmed.
Mohit Singh May 08, 2013 09:24am
What does the author have to say about the claim of Kaur that the same Pakistani HR Activist had demanded money for his release? The person in a comment below rightly noted "no substance in this article". Why do you skip the fact that your national was convicted in India for terrorism too? Very sad face of Paksitani Journalism. And don't say that Afzal was just secretly hanged. He was found guilty several times by the Court at trial and in Appeals. Don't interfere in Indian Matters.
Mohit Singh May 08, 2013 09:25am
I guess you said this in sarcasm.
Adeel May 08, 2013 10:00am
Bhagat singh, Guru & Butt were freedom fighters while on the other end sarbajit was a terroist. Please dont compare freedom fighters and terrorists !
Zimbo_Indian May 08, 2013 01:55pm
One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.
Dr Dang May 08, 2013 08:41pm
Very soon you would have more dislikes. Lol
Pavan May 09, 2013 10:48am
I suppose you do not read enough news.. Post mortem report says