New Delhi, June 28: Family members of Indian death row convict Sarabjit Singh Thursday sat on an indefinite protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital seeking his freedom from Pakistan and asked the Indian government to intensify efforts to obtain his return back home.
Sarabjit’s family also met External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna here and was assured of all government efforts to obtain his release from a Pakistani prison.
Over 200 supporters of Sarabjit, including his close family, gathered at Jantar Mantar to demand his release.
Pakistan had done a flip-flop late Tuesday after announcing that President Asif Ali Zardari had commuted Sarabjit’s death sentence and that he would be released.
Later, the presidential spokesman said that instead of Sarabjit, another Indian prisoner, Surjeet Singh, who has been languishing in Pakistani jails for over three decades on spying charges, would be released.
Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur, who met Krishna in Delhi, said the minister had told her that “the matter has been raised with Pakistan several times and India will again take it up during the foreign secretary-level talks next month”.
He was also quoted as saying that India will not let him stay in Pakistan jail and that he will be released soon.
Krishna earlier expressed happiness over the release of another Indian prisoner, Surjeet Singh.
“I am happy that Surjeet Singh is released. I hope that Pakistan will also seriously ponder and consider to release Sarabjit Singh,” Krishna told reporters.
Dalbir Kaur, who has led the campaign for Sarabjit’s release for the last few years, said: “Pakistan has played a cruel joke on us and we are again requesting Zardari to release Sarabjit.”
Sarabjit’s family claims that he had inadvertently crossed over to Pakistan in an inebriated state August 1990 and was arrested there. He hails from Bhikhiwind village along the India-Pakistan border, 280 km from Chandigarh.
He was later identified as Manjit Singh and accused of planting two bombs in Pakistan which claimed 14 lives. He was sentenced to death by Pakistani courts even though his family here claimed that he was innocent.
At the Jantar Mantar protest, organised by Sachkand Nanak Dham of Ghaziabad, people from Punjab, including children, were seen holding posters that said: “Pakistan, Sarabjit ki rihahi se palte kyu (Pakistan, why the U-turn on Sarabjit’s release?).”
There was constant chanting of the hymns from Guru Granth Sahib.
Dalbir Kaur told IANS that she had full faith in the government and its efforts in getting her brother out of prison and his return to India.
She once again reiterated her family’s appeal to Pakistan to free her brother.
“Pakistan has made a mistake and now, they will have to correct it. The whole world is watching its actions. Pakistan has to answer them.
“If Pakistan releases Sarabjit, it will only act as a catalyst to better ties with India,” she said.
Talking of her own visits to Pakistan, Dalbir Kaur said her cause had the vast support from Pakistanis, including the media there. “Even the jailer at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison, where my brother is lodged, supports his release,” she claimed.
She however expressed happiness at the release of another prisoner Sujeet Singh.
She said Surjeet Singh had called her up, saying he would have been happier if “Sarabjit too had been freed and expressed his support to our efforts”.
The organisers of the protest said they would continue their agitation till Sarabjit is freed and returns home.