Sarabjit cremated with state honours

FPThousands joined Sarabjitís funeral procession in Bhikhiwind Friday. RANA SIMRANJIT SINGH

Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who died after being brutally assaulted in a Pakistani jail, was cremated with full state honours in his village Friday as thousands of people, including a host of prominent politicians, paid their last respects.

A posse of Punjab police fired three shots in the air as a mark of respect as Sarabjit's body was consigned to the flames. The pyre was lit by his sister Dalbir Kaur, who had been heading a vigorous campaign seeking the release of Sarabjit.

Dalbir, Sarabjit's wife Sukhpreet Kaur and daughters Swapandeep and Poonam were inconsolable during the cremation and the daughters were seen being supported by policewomen.

The mourners were led by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma, Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Avtar Singh Makkar.

Rahul Gandhi spent nearly 40 minutes at the cremation. The Punjab government, which had already announced Rs 1 crore for Sarabjit's family and government jobs to his daughters, accorded Sarabjit the title of 'martyr of the nation' in a resolution passed at a special session of the state assembly.

Bhikhiwind turned into a virtual fortress with heavy deployment of police as thousands of people gathered at the cremation ground. People crowded on the roofs of houses in the area as well to catch a glimpse of the funeral.

Earlier, politicians and other visitors to the village turned up in large numbers at the local school where Sarabjit's body was placed in a glass enclosure for people to pay their last respects.

The body was taken to the cremation ground nearby in a van decked with flowers and which carried a banner "Sarabjit Amar Rahe". The van took nearly 40 minutes to cover the 500 metres to the cremation ground due to the crowds that had gathered. People shouted pro-Sarabjit and anti-Pakistan slogans as the van made its way.

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