A tale of two Singhs and Pakistan's cruel joke
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a midnight of melancholy. It was a midnight of merry-making.
It was a confusion defused for worse. It was a clarification made for the best. It was a wrong corrected. It was a right wronged.
There was a celebration marred. There was a festivity just begun.
It was a drought of hope. It was a drizzle of optimism.
It was a heart-breaking news. It was a heart-warming message.
Fate had taken 180-degree-turn for both the Singhs and their families. It was a disaster for Sarabjits while a dream came true for Surjeets.
The Pakistan government's (deliberate?) gaffe on Tuesday midnight jolted the family of Sarabjit out of utopia.
Just few hours ago in the evening, Punjab's Bhikiwind village in Tarn Taran district, was floating in happiness, buoyant with joy, sweetened with laddus.
There were crackers lighted in the celebration of Sarabjit's expected homecoming. But as the midnight descended, ashes were left scattered, telling a sad story of how hopes had been charred to dust. The tears in the eyes of Dalbeer Kaur, Sarabjit’s sister had changed their hue.
The tears, few hours ago, were that of relief and happiness, but now they trickled down tragically in disbelief, complaining of deception and betrayal. On one hand if Surjeets had been blessed with a new life, the essence had been extracted out of the lives of Sarabjits.
It was just like a cancer patient being told that he was now free of the malaise and could lead a happy life ever after; only to discover after a few hours that the doctors had goofed up and that the disease was alive much more than before.
How could such a cruel joke be cracked on a family, grieving for couple of decades, hoping for a change of heart, and homecoming of their loved one, languishing in a jail across the border.
The change of heart did take place, but only to change again - Change is good and refreshing, but not if it happens at too short an interval. Just like, people generally don't like chameleons, which keep changing colours according to the situations.
Abu Jundal was nabbed just a day ago, and on Tuesday news came like a fresh breeze - Sarabjit's death sentence had been commuted to life sentence in Pakistan and that he would soon be a free man walking back home.
Everyone was elated. From Dalbeer Kaur, Swapnjeet Kaur (Sarabjit's daughter) to Pakistani right activist Ansar Burney, everyone was singing hymns in praise of Asif Ali Zardari. So much so that, Indian External Affairs Minister made no delay in conveying thanks to Zardari. (Though, it shouldn't be taken as a surprise, given his earlier goof-ups of reading out the speech of the Portugal representative at the United Nations and in Rajya Sabha, talking of Dr Chisti being lodged in Pakistani jail).
Well, the news of Sarabjit spread like wildfire. Media talked and people rejoiced. There were grand chat shows on television , with some calling it a peaceful gesture, some called it a reciprocation, and some realised it was a face-saving act by the Pakistani government at a time when Abu Jundal was in the clutch of Delhi and could expose the Karachi connection to 26/11 attacks.
The story was giving good TRPs on all news channels - it had everything in it akin to a Bollywood drama. I was reminded of Veer Zara, where an aged Shahrukh Khan meets the grey haired, but yet beautiful Preity Zinta in a Pakistani court after exactly 22 years - the same time span that Sarabjit has been languishing for, in Pakistan's Kot Lakhpat jail.
Sarabjit’s story too had the emotions, the victims, the heroes, the villain who in the end turns good, etc. But what nobody predicted was the twist that was to come.
It was announced on the midnight of Tuesday that there had been a misunderstanding over the name of the person being freed - That the spokesman of the President of Pakistan had mistakenly announced Sarabjit instead of Surjeet. The person who would walk free was 69 year old Surjeet Singh.
It is being widely suspected that it was not a goof-up, but a damage control tactic of a government afraid of other more powerful entities, who exhibited a strong dislike over Sarabjit Singh's death sentence being commuted.
What adds to the doubt is that, Surjeet Singh's death sentence being commuted is nothing new. Because, it was way back in 1989, that President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had commuted Surjeet's sentence on the advice of the then premier Benazir Bhutto.
Also, Surjeet Singh himself has been hinting the same in numerous interviews after being released.
Surjeet said that the release of Sarabjit Singh was delayed due to opposition by various sections of the Army, ISI, civil groups after the excessive media hype over the issue back home.
To quote him, "Sarabjit's favour too had been done, but the unnecessary hype created by media marred it entirely...”
This clearly connotes that it was not a mere phonetic goof-up created due to the confusion over two similar sounding names - Sarabjit and Surjeet. It had more to do with the deeply demonic politics at play in Pakistan - a country virtually run by the ISI, Army and the jihadis.
If it turns out to be the truth that the decision over Sarabjit was turned turtle at the last moment, then this is nothing but an obscene politics played by Pakistani government, that did not hesitate once before butchering the hopes and emotions of Sarabjit for sake of saving its own skin.