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‘Teri Amrita ‘ first time staged in Punjabi at Lahore #Sundayreading

Two to play

 March 23, 2014

‘Teri Amrita’ managed to capture the Lahori audience despite its lack of action

 Two to play

What are the rules that evaluate a drama on stage that has no action but only the presence of two characters completely involved in reading letters that they write to each other? Perhaps, the presence of the two superstars — Om Puri and Divya Dutta — took the pressure away from the way the play was written and its production designed, to concentrate only on their performances. Both have a huge presence and that can easily dominate the role or let their person totally eliminate the character.

Usually the play is meant to be action. Aristotle defined it as imitation of significant action — and here was a play totally devoid of action. It was just two characters on stage, and that too sedentary, reading out letters to each other from the two sides of the stage.

It might have been a radio play where the entire emphasis is on the delivery of the broadcaster. Since nothing else is meant to be seen by the listener on the radio, the entire focus narrows down to the voice as it is supposed to substitute for the movement of the body and the expression of the face.

The question to ask is, why was a radio play or the format of a radio play chosen to be performed at the Alhamra under the banner of Barfi Theatre Productions by a duo of Indian actors who are known in Pakistan through their films and not through the work that they have done on stage?

The Pakistani viewers are only exposed to the vaulting Indian cinema and not to the other forms that do not find a ready platform other than through the television screen.

Since Aristotelian canons, the stage play has underdone so many changes that even he would be at a loss to define what he saw today as theatre or the stage play. From Waiting for Godotto the massive intervention by technology, the stage has swung from one end to the other, struggling to redefine the meaning of theatre. But if theatre means human dilemma as delivered by two characters on stage then it qualified to be the skimpiest form of theatre, very basic and minimalist in nature.

Gurney’s Love Letters is a good play and it was made into a successful Indian production by Javed Siddiqui, who translated and adapted it into Urdu and called it Tumhari Amrita. For years Farooq Sheikh and Shabana Azmi played the two characters to raving reviews and great critical acclaim. It was directed by Feroz Abbas and was also staged once in Karachi with the two aforesaid celebrities playing the two characters of Amrita and Zulfiqar Haider.

In Pakistan the same play with the same adaptation has been staged more than once in Karachi by local actors.

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But it was the first time that it was staged in Punjabi and there was something in the language that clicked instantly. The Punjabi of Teri Amrita was full of charge and carried the idiomatic richness which made the otherwise sedentary performance into a combination of restraint and repressed emotion. A relationship that exists in words and does not go beyond it to be translated into something more instant was quite palpable. It retained immediacy and combined it well with frustration.

It was a difficult role to perform because it just meant reading out letters to the other character who is also on stage doing the same. The lack of action in the play had to be compensated by immense control over the voice because that was the only craft that could be used. Both Om Puri and Divya Dutta did that quite well as the response of the audience showed. And, in it, he must have been helped by his association with the radio.

(In the early years of cinema, it was usual for actors, writers and directors to be familiar with stage and radio before graduating to film.)

An exchange of letters between Zulfiqar Haider and Amrita Nigam spans over 35 years in which both grow from their teens into middle age, the tension and frustration of the relationship based on unrequited love was weaved through words.

Om Puri and Divya Dutta have taken different routes to films. While he went through the regimen of the National School of Drama to become principally a stage actor, she went into modelling and then appeared in films, mostly playing the character of a Punjabi woman. She was equally convincing as Amrita in the play.

The Indian film is watched by millions here, either in cinema or on television through cable and satellite networks but the average viewer here is not exposed to other forms of performing arts. In the past years, there have been sporadic examples of Indian theatre being staged here. During the Rafi Peer Festivals many Indians groups came and performed giving some indication of the width and depth of the Indian theatre scene. But one play here and one play there leaves the appetite only whetted and not satiated.

In the last few months, Naseeruddin Shah too has been staging plays here with some other members of the cast under the sponsorship of Faiz Foundation and NAPA also has invited groups. It would be so much better if there is more exchange of plays between the two countries and that would surely help the Pakistan theatre scene that is good but narrowly constructed. It needs to grow both vertically and horizontally.


Read more here —


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Narendra Modi invited to release Bhagat Singh Jail diary- is like Hitler being invited to release Lenin’s book #mustread

Chaman Lal , 

Bhagat Singh jail notebook...-1994-BS Hooja (1)In context of ‘Narendera Modi being invited to release Bhagat Singh Jail diary’! I join in expressing my concern with further emphasis that it is like ‘Hitler being invited to release Lenin’s book’! or ‘Bush being invited to release Che Guevara’s book!

Only this one family member from nine brother-sisters large family of Bhagat Singh with number of  nephews/nieces/grand nephew/nieces/in laws of all, one living sister of Bhagat Singh in Toronto-Canada, is trying to hog headlines by this reckless and irresponsible move, none of other huge family members of Bhagat Singh family has approved this move, rather like Jagmohan Singh, most of them disapprove it.

 Moreover same family member has earlier claimed in Times of India highlighted report that he is going to get President of India to release the same proposed jail notebook as coffee table book for upper middle classes!  Funniest part of it is that the same jail notebook has already been published ample of times.

On Narender Modi releasing Bhagat Singh jail notebook! Facts are here-

History of Jail Notebook of Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh Jail Noteboook-2007 (1)Now almost every serious admirer of Bhagat Singh knows about his Jail Notebook, but before 1981, hardly anyone other than Bhagat Singh’s family members, knew about its existence. During fiftieth martyrdom anniversary of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in 1981, Kulbir Singh, younger brother of Bhagat Singh allowed its microfilm to be made by National Archives/Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, with the condition of ‘not to be published’! That time this Jail Notebook was put on exhibition in National Archives of India along with other documents of revolutionary movements to mark fiftieth martyrdom anniversary. Both institutions then kept the notebook for consultation in their records. Around the time its copy was given to Gurukul in Inderprastha, Delhi by Kullbir Singh’s younger son Abhey Sandhu. This was the time when Mitrokhin, the Russian scholar on Indian history, visited Kulbir Singh many times and took whole or part of Notebook to Moscow and wrote about its significance. Mitrokhin’s writing on Bhagat Singh’s notebook, made the Indian scholars wake from their slumber and they also started paying attention towards it. At a personal level, I myself first time saw the notebook in Nehru Memorial Library and Museum in 1984 and took extensive notes from it, and started writing about it in newspapers/journals. Actually Jail Notebook was part of that bagful of documents, which Bhagat Singh handed over to Kumari Lajjawati, who was secretary of Bhagat Singh defense committee and later Principal of a college in Jalandhar. She was instructed by Bhagat Singh to hand over this bag to Bejoy Kumar Sinha on his release from jail. Sinha was transported jail notebook...-1994-BS Hooja (1)for life in Lahore Conspiracy case and was released in 1938, when Congress governments came to power in many states. Lajjawati showed that bag to Lala Feroze Chand, editor of ‘The People’, himself a committed socialist. Lala Feroze Chand published few documents from those papers, including Letter To Young Political Workers of 2nd Februay 1931 in abridged form, Letter about Harikishan’s case, who was executed after Bhagat Singh in for shooting Punjab Governor in Punjab University Lahore’s convocation and ‘Why I am an Atheist’ on 27th September 1931 issue, first birth day of Bhagat Singh after his execution. This essay was lost during partition times and many websites in the world are still carrying retranslated Bhagat Singh jail notebook...-1994-BS Hooja (2)version of this essay from some Indian language. I have reproduced ‘The People’s first printed version of this essay in my latest book-‘Understanding Bhagat Singh’ released recently. The People in editorial note has ascribed copy rights of the essay to S. Kishan Singh, father of Bhagat Singh. Bhagat Singh’s writings were being published from Bhagat Singh’s life time in many Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English papers, which were put into a volume for first time by Virender Sandhu, niece of Bhagat Singh and daughter of S. Kultar Singh, who was most close to Bhagat Singh’s heart. It is Virender Sandhu, who authored the most authoritative biography of Bhagat Singh’s whole family in 1968 in Hindi. Later Jagmohan Singh, another nephew of Bhagat Singh and son of Bibi Amar Kaur collected more documents and put in a volume in Punjabi-Bhagat Singh ate Unah de saathiyhan de dastavez.

Bhagat Singh jail notebook...Bengali-2012        Few years later monthly ‘Indian Book Chronicle’ edited by Bhupinder Hooja in Jaipur started serializing the jail notebook of Bhagat Singh in 1992, which made me quite happy and I complimented Hooja ji. Hooja Ji got its copy from from his elder brother G B Kumar Hooja who remained Vice Chancellor of Gurukul Kangri Haridwar, got its copy from Gurukul Inderprastha. With my appreciation, Sh. Bhupender Hooja felt reassured about the authenticity of the Jail Notebook and with his local resources and with tremendous labor in annotating the sources of Bhagat Singh’s mentioned books and writers/quotations, he brought out first printed edition of Jail Notebook in 1994, which was released in Jaipur Raj Bhavan by then Rajasthan Governor D P Chattopadhyaya. In fact Bhupender Hooja in his acknowledgements, apart from others, has acknowledged three of us, including Dr. Kamlesh Mohan from Chandigarh and Shiv Verma, comrade Bhagat Singh Jail notebook-Hindi-GOI-2007 (1)of Bhagat Singh, both wrote on his ideology and myself. Jail Notebook got some good reviews in papers like-The Tribune and Times of India, including my write ups in Frontier (Kolkata) and Indian Book Chronicle. Despite good reviews, the book did not reach mass readers, as its publisher has no network of distribution and the book itself was in shabby get up. Its Hindi translation, later Punjabi and some other languages translations appeared in next few years, without acknowledging Sh. Bhupender Hooja as editor and his contribution in annotations, which was the most difficult task to perform.

After I joined JNU in 2005, I convinced Leftword, New Delhi, to bring out its new edition and with Bhupender Hooja’s permission, its new edition was brought Bhagat Singh- Marathi-Jail notebook-2008out by Leftword Delhi in 2007- during birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh. It was updated with my introduction and some additions in the form of some articles of Bhagat Singh and some on him, like that of Periyar. Sudhnva Deshpande, publisher of the book further improvised the annotations, but the main credit of the book remained with Sh. Hooja. It was translated in 2007 in Marathi from my Hindi book-Bhagat Singh ke Samupran Dastavezand in Bengali two editions came between 2009 and 2012, one of translation from Leftword edition. Now it has been translated into Urdu as well, with some parts already appearing in 2010 Urdu edition of my book- Bhagat Singh ke Syasi Dastavez. One scanned and print edition of the Notebook, edited by Babar Singh, son of Kulbir Singh and K C Yadav was also published during centenary year at the price of Rupees 999/ from Hope India publications Gurgaon.

Abhey Sandhu, younger son of Kulbir Singh, during birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh, did wonderful work of getting this jail notebook published from both Punjab and Haryana Governments in scanned form on one side and Punjabi and Hindi translations on other side. These publications were not priced and were published by public relations

Chaman Lal, writer is well-known scholar. He is Retired Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

Chaman Lal, writer is well-known scholar. He is Retired Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

departments of both governments for free distribution. When I was invited to address Bhagat Singh youth awardees this year on 28th March at Mohali, I was pleasantly surprised to know that awardees of Punjab Government were being gifted with the copy of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook, published by Punjab Government. I wished to make this suggestion in my speech, so I appreciated the decision of the officials.

I understand that some more editions of the notebook have also been brought out by many more publishers/ individuals, including by Abhey Sandhu himself. There is no harm in multiple editions of such inspiring books. I remember that there are multiple editions of revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil’s autobiography in Hindi and I was pleasantly surprised to see Swami Agnivesh bringing out the edition of that autobiography at just five rupees per copy price, which his organization used to distribute to school students almost free of cost. This jail note book is part of Government of India’s publication division publication- ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavezon ke Aiene Men’, released by Kuldip Nayar in presence of Abhey Sandhu and Kiranjit Sandhu, two nephews of Bhagat Singh, on 19th December 2007, the martyrdom of  Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqualla Khan. The function was presided over by then minister for information Sh. Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, who is now in coma since many years. This volume is edited by me.

There is no harm in bringing out as many volumes of such inspiring books from as many institutions/persons, but without making the false claim that this is ‘going to be the first ever publication’ of this jail notebook.


– See more at:

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank"> #India – NoTo Bhagat Singh’s Second Hanging #mustread


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#India – NoTo Bhagat Singh’s Second Hanging #mustread

Photograph of Bhagat Singh taken in 1929 - whe...

Photograph of Bhagat Singh taken in 1929 – when he was 21 years old. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Shamsul Islam

According to some newspapers reports Yadvendra Singh Sandhu, a distant relative of great martyr of Indian Freedom Struggle, Bhagat Singh (hanged on March 23, 1931 along with Sukhdev & Rajguru in Lahore) has invited Hindutva icon, Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister, who calls himself ‘Hindu nationalist’ and a member of RSS, to release Shahid Bhagat Singh’s Jail Diary in Delhi on September 29. The same relative had announced a high prized coffee-table book edition of this Diary in the beginning of 2013 to be released by the President of India.

Now with Yadvendra’s change of heart and outpouring of love for Hindutva icon, President of India has been replaced with Modi.

We need to note few important facts about this Diary. This Diary, consisting of 404 pages (not all pages filled) mainly contains notes of books/material Bhagat Singh went through during his 716 days of his jail life under British rule (arrest in Delhi on April 8, 1929 and hanged in Lahore on March 23, 1931). He spent his jail days not mourning or repenting but equipping him with world literature on miscellaneous issues specially capitalism, exploitation, atheism and Socialism. During this period according to jail records he received 302 books (English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi & Bengali) authored by writers like Marx, Engels, Bertrand Russell, Adam Smith, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Bakunin, Thomas Paine, Rousseau, JS Mill, Ibsen, Trotsky, Lenin, Upton Sinclair, Gorky, Jefferson and others. Apart from notes of these books he jotted down his vision of youth, working class and peasant movements, revolution, and social movements in this Diary. It disappeared after his martyrdom but surfaced later. Interestingly, its English and Hindi versions have been in public domain since 1980s and freely available to lovers of Bhagat Singh. Yadvendra Singh Sandhu’s intermittent announcements about this Diary are alleged to be part of his design to get monetary and political benefits. Professor Jagmohan Singh, son of Bhagat Singh’s favourite sister, Amar Bibi and individuals/organizations carrying forward the revolutionary legacy of Bhagat Singh world-over have strongly reacted to Sandhu’s latest overture as bizarre and shameful.

There is no doubt that release of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Diary by Narendra Modi will be playing havoc with the legacy of Bhagat Singh and his comrades who stood against theocratic, communal, Casteist and pro-imperialist forces. The pre-Independence documents available in the RSS archives make it very clear that Hindutva camp, not only kept silence about Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries, in fact, abhorred them as we will see in the following.

MS Golwalkar, the most prominent ideologue of the RSS and second boss or Sar-Sanghchalak of the RSS (June 1940 to June 1973) in an article titled ‘Martyr, Great but Not Ideal’ wrote: “There is no doubt that such men who embrace martyrdom are great heroes and their philosophy too is pre-eminently manly. They are far above the average men who meekly submit to fate and remain in fear and inaction. All the same, such persons are not held up as ideals in our society. We have not looked upon their martyrdom as the highest point of greatness to which men should aspire. For, after all, they failed in achieving their ideal, and failure implies some fatal flaw in them. [MS Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, p. 283]

This Hindutva ideologue while addressing top-level cadres of the RSS went to the extent of saying: “But one should think whether complete national interest is accomplished by that? Sacrifice does not lead to increase in the thinking of the society of giving all for the interest of the nation.” [Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan, (collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi), Vol. I, Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, Nagpur, nd, pp. 61-62]

Can there be statements more insulting to the martyrs of Indian Freedom Movement than this? The founder of the RSS, KB Hedgewar (Sar-Sanghchalak of the RSS 1925 to 1940) went one step further. He said: “Patriotism is not only going to prison. It is not correct to be carried away by such superficial patriotism.” [CP Bhishikar, Sanghavariksh Ke Beej: Dr. Keshavrao Hedgewar, Suruchi, 1994, p. 21.]

From RSS standpoint it was bad luck of martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Ashfaqullah, and Chandrashekhar Azad that they did not come in contact with the then RSS leadership. If they had, they could have been saved from giving their lives for ‘superficial patriotism’? This also must be the reason why RSS leaders or cadres did not face repression during British rule and the RSS did not produce any martyr during the Freedom Movement.

I strongly feel that no person should be allowed to betray the great legacy of Shahid-e-Azam Bhagat Singh.

It is hoped that Yadvendra Singh Sandhu who claims to be a relative of the martyr will not be party to SECOND HANGING OF BHAGAT SINGH.

Shamsul Islam is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi.[email protected]


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Sarabjit’s death probe: Judicial commission visits jail, interviews prisoners

PTI Jun 9, 2013,

LAHORE: A judicial commission of the Lahore high court visited Sarabjit Singh’s cell in Kot Lakhpat Jail and interviewed prisoners as part of its probe into the brutal murder of the Indian death row convict.

Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, the head of the commission, collected the complete record of Sarabjit from prison officials.

Registrar Bushra Zaman of the high court told reporters that the commission had interviewed some prisoners about the incident and gathered complete records of the case.

The commission had already issued notices to Sarabjit’s family through the foreign ministry to record their statements and produce any evidence they had regarding the incident, Zaman said.

Local witnesses have been summoned on June 10 to record their statements.

The commission will unearth the facts at the earliest in view of the importance of the matter, she said.

The commission will also interview the two prisoners arrested for attacking Sarabjit, jail officials and witnesses before finalising its report.

Five to six prisoners had brutally assaulted Sarabjit in a well-coordinated attack on April 26.

After being comatose for nearly a week, Singh died at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore on May 2.

Police registered a murder case against two death row prisoners Amer Aftab and Mudassar for allegedly assaulting Sarabjit.

Both men told police that they wanted to kill Sarabjit as he was involved in killing Pakistanis in bomb blasts.


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Pakistani lesbian couple marry in U.K. defying threats

 LONDON, May 27, 2013, The Hindu

On a day that a French lesbian love story won the top award at Cannes, two young lesbians from Pakistan became the first Muslim women in Britain to marry in a civil ceremony in what the gay community hailed as a “landmark” event.

Rehana Kausar (34) and Sobia Kamar (29) said they decided to go ahead despite receiving death threats because they believed it was “no one’s business what we do with our personal lives”.

Immediately after tying the knot, they sought asylum in Britain claiming that their lives would be in danger if they returned to Pakistan where homosexuality is illegal and gay people live in fear.

The couple, who met three years ago while studying business and health care management in Birmingham, were reported as saying they had been living together in South Yorkshire for about a year but were able to gather enough courage to come out openly only last month.

According to their relatives, the two had been threatened both in Pakistan and in Britain, and could not find an imam to perform a “nikah”.

Ms. Kausar, originally from Lahore, and Ms. Kamar, from the Mirpur region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, took vows at Leeds Registry Office under Britain’s Civil Partnership Act 2004 which gives gay couples the same rights and responsibilities that heterosexual couples enjoy in a civil marriage.

Personal act

“This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives. The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach and we are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society which was once a tolerant society and respected individuals freedoms,” Ms. Kausar told Birmingham’s Sunday Mercury newspaper.

Ms. Kamar described her partner as a “soul mate” and said she loved her.

Praising them for their courage, a relative said: “They have been very brave throughout as our religion does not condone homosexuality. The couple have had their lives threatened both here and in Pakistan and there is no way they could ever return there.”


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Pakistan releases 45 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture #goodnews

Press Trust of India | Posted on May 25, 2013

Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday released 45 Indian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill though confusion surrounded the move as Indian authorities in Islamabad were not informed about it.

“We have freed 45 Indian prisoners and they will be repatriated via Wagah tomorrow,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told a news briefing at the Foreign Office.

The prisoners, most of them fishermen, were freed from a jail in Karachi and put on a bus to take them to the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan releases 45 Indian fishermenThere are currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while 496 Pakistanis are in Indian jails.

However, official sources said Pakistani authorities had not formally informed the Indian High Commission about their release till this afternoon.

The verification of the identity of several of the fishermen had not been completed while others had not completed their jail terms, the sources told PTI. Several formalities have to be completed before the fishermen can be allowed to cross over to India via the Wagah land border crossing tomorrow, the sources said.

Footage on television showed the fishermen coming out of Malir Jail in Karachi and boarding the bus. On May 7, caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso announced that Pakistan would release 51 Indian fishermen who had completed their jail terms.

The figure was subsequently revised to 49 and later, 45 prisoners were freed. India and Pakistan frequently arrest fishermen for illegally crossing the maritime boundary.

There are currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while 496 Pakistanis are in Indian jails. When Khoso announced the release of the Indian fishermen, he expressed the hope that the Indian government would reciprocate by freeing Pakistani prisoners.

The move to release the prisoners came after Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh died in Lahore on May 2 following a brutal assault within Kot Lakhpat Jail.

Following his death, Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay was assaulted in a jail in Jammu and died later in a hospital in Chandigarh.

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India – Ignoring Custodial Deaths #Prisons


Vol – XLVIII No. 19, May 11, 2013 | Rebecca Gonsalvez and Vijay Hiremath

There is justifiable anguish over the killing of Sarabjit Singh in a Pakistani jail but what about the thousands of deaths in police and judicial custody in India? Torture is common and rampant in police custody and deaths in so-called police encounters are routinely reported. Politicians and the media are demanding justice for Sarabjit. When will the Indian government hold the police and jail officials responsible for custodial deaths accountable and compensate the next of kin?


Rebecca Gonsalvez ([email protected]) and Vijay Hiremath ([email protected]) are human rights lawyers practising in the Bombay High Court.

The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” (Article 14 of the Constitution of India)

Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner on death row in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan died on 2 May, 2013, after being assaulted in custody making it a custodial death. Sarabjit has been proclaimed a martyr in India, his body was cremated with full state honours, a three-day state mourning was announced and the Punjab government as well as the government of India announced compensation amounts (Rs 1 crore and 25 lakhs respectively) to the next of kin. Political leaders demanded that those responsible for the barbaric and murderous attack be brought to justice. All this is commendable, of course. One only wishes that the Indian government would act just as swiftly in every case of custodial death in our country.

According to the report of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), “Torture in India 2011”, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded a total of 14,231 deaths in custody in India between 2001 and 2010, which includes about 1,504 deaths in police custody and about 12,727 deaths in judicial custody. The ACHR report observes that these are only the cases reported to the NHRC, and do not include all cases of custodial deaths. The report attributes the deaths in custody to torture, denial of medical facilities and inhuman prison conditions. Once a person is taken into custody, the responsibility for his/her life, health and safety rests with the authorities in whose custody he or she is, be it the police or the jail authorities.

However, so far, the government has hardly ever immediately accepted responsibility for the deaths in custody, nor has it announced compensation in such cases particularly of such large amounts as promised to Sarabjit’s kin, or taken measures to speedily prosecute the officials responsible for the deaths. Yet the very same politicians are demanding on Sarabjit’s behalf what they do not willingly give to their own citizens. Nor has the government or the opposition ever expressed any kind of outrage for the deaths of the 14,231 people in custody in India between 2001 and 2010. The media, especially television channels, termed the custodial death of Sarabjit an act of butchery, referring to his assailants as “Pak butchers”, but do not show the same passion for justice when it comes to Indian custodial deaths.

Roll Call of Dishonour

What about the police officials in whose custody arrestees die in India? What about the people regularly killed in “encounters” with the police or the army? What about Sohrabuddin, Kauserbi and Ishrat Jehan? When will those responsible for their deaths be held accountable and punished for these reprehensible acts? When will their families be compensated for their losses? Their families are regularly denied basic documents relating to their deaths, such as the post-mortem report. Most of these cases are deemed suicides. In the case of encounters, it is alleged that the deceased shot at the police/army officials involved, who somehow miraculously escape unscathed. The accused in custodial death and encounter cases are rarely prosecuted, and cases of murder are almost never registered against them. The government seldom grants sanction to prosecute the officials involved. Sarabjit is supposed to have been assaulted by fellow prisoners. What makes the cases mentioned above far worse is that they are perpetrated by the police and the army, whose responsibility it is to protect the citizens of this country from crime.

Take the case of Khwaja Yunus. The young software engineer was arrested in December 2002 by the Mumbai Crime Branch in what is commonly known as the Ghatkopar bomb blast case. He was tortured and killed in police custody, and his body was never found. Instead the police indulged in an elaborate cover-up and attempted to show that Khwaja Yunus had escaped from their custody. It was only after his father filed a petition in the Bombay High Court that the government ultimately admitted that he had died in custody and paid his family Rs three lakhs as compensation. However, though the Maharashtra State CID (Crime Investigation Department) chargesheeted 14 police officials, the government sanctioned the prosecution of only four of them. The High Court in 2011 directed the state to pay Yunus’s family Rs 20 lakhs as compensation, but did not direct the prosecution of the remaining 10 accused who had been chargesheeted. This amount was paid to his mother almost 10 years after his death. The offenders are yet to be tried and punished. Ram Singh, the bus driver, and one of the accused in the recent Delhi 16 December, 2012, gangrape case died in Tihar jail in mysterious circumstances on 11 March. Some of the media reports indicated that Ram Singh was assaulted in the jail and succumbed to the injuries. No action has been taken so far against any officials or inmates for his death. Sanaullah Ranjay, a Pakistani national was assaulted with a brick by a fellow inmate in the Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu & Kashmir on 3 May. He sustained severe head injuries, and is presently on the ventilator in the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh. What did the authorities do to protect him? What is the government doing to protect people in custody? What are the preventive measures taken? Are there medical facilities and staff in every jail in the country to provide services in emergency situations?

Sarabjit was convicted in October 1991 of espionage and for carrying out a series of bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad in 1990 that killed 14 persons, and was sentenced to death. A man who in India would be termed a “terrorist” along the lines of Ajmal Kasab the Pakistani national who was convicted in the terror attack which occurred in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008, and was executed on 21 November, 2012, or Afzal Guru the Kashmiri who was convicted in the Parliament attack case and was executed on 9 Februrary, 2013. Both Kasab and Guru were executed in secrecy, and not permitted to meet their families prior to execution. Their bodies were not returned to their families for the last rites/funeral. However, elaborate measures were taken by the government of India to ensure the speedy and safe return of Sarabjit’s remains. He was given a funeral with state honours! Why the discrimination? Why the double standards?

Torture in Police Custody

India signed the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1997 but is yet to ratify it. A toothless Prevention of Torture Bill is pending before the Parliament, and there is very little hope that it will be passed within the tenure of this government. While there are jail manuals in many states, (besides the model jail manual) which state how prisoners are to be treated and what they are entitled to in prisons, there are absolutely no rules regarding the treatment of inmates in police custody and they remain totally at the mercy of the police. Torture in various forms is rampant in police custody with the degree differing according to the crime for which the person has been arrested, his/her economic condition and social status and whether he/she has legal representation. Scientific and non-violent methods of interrogation are alien to our law enforcement agencies. The most common form of torture is depriving a person of sleep for days together. Assault is equally common, so is the threat to rape and torture the female relatives of the arrestees and use of torture to extract confessions is routine. Recent laws have made such confessions to the police admissible, making the job of the police easier. Some Supreme Court and High Court judgements, most importantly the D K Basu guidelines on arrest laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, and now incorporated by recent amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), have created a few safeguards. However, there is need for vigilant judges to ensure the strict implementation of these guidelines and provisions. It is important to note here that the Right to Life is a fundamental right in this country, guaranteed to both foreigners and Indians alike by the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court of India held in 1974 in the case of D Bhuvan Mohan Patnaik vs State of Andhra Pradesh that prisoners are not denuded of their fundamental rights including their right to life, by mere reason of their incarceration.

Make Equal Justice a Reality

While discussing the plight of Indian prisoners in foreign jails and campaigning for better conditionsis important, there is urgent need to look at the conditions of prisoners in our own jails. While the assault on Sarabjit Singh in the Kot Lakhpat jail that ultimately resulted in his death deserves to be condemned strongly and acted upon, the same must be done in every case of custodial death and extra-judicial killing in India. Our Constitution guarantees equality andequal justice to all. That guarantee must not remain only on paper. It must become a reality.


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Spies of Punjab, ‘shown steps of gold’

CHANDER SUTA DOGRA, The HinduFor one Sarabjit Singh, whose death brought politicians to his funeral and financial assistance for his family, the Punjab countryside is dotted with scores of men knocking on the doors of courts seeking compensation for the years many of them spent in Pakistani jails, and recognition of their services as spies for India.

Neither the government nor his family has ever acknowledged that Sarabjit — who died this week after being attacked by fellow prisoners in a Lahore jail — was a spy. Indeed, in the years before the campaign for commutation of the death sentence he received in 1991 gained momentum, none of the men who now say they were spies dared to approach the courts. Most melted back into the poverty-stricken lives they left before joining the dangerous world of espionage whose golden rule — if you are caught you are on your own — was, they claim, never disclosed to them. But Sarabjit’s saga slowly emboldened many former spies in Punjab and Jammu to file petitions, none of which have been viewed positively by the courts so far.

According to Ranjan Lakhanpal, a Chandigarh-based lawyer who has singlehandedly filed some 40 petitions of former spies in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, “The maximum relief that we have managed to get so far is a vague direction to the government to look into the matter. It has never resulted in any concrete benefit for the petitioners, most of who are penniless after spending years in Pakistani prisons. Whenever their cases are taken up in the courts, the government just refuses to acknowledge them,” he says. But they keep coming to Mr. Lakhanpal, who has in recent years become a beacon of sorts for former spies. Sooner or later, they land up at his office because he takes up their cases free of charge.

Poor families, from the border belt of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur in particular, are the recruiting grounds for intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), military intelligence (MI) and BSF Intelligence. And Dhariwal, Daduwan, Khaira Kalan and Kang, among others, can almost be called spy villages for the number of men that are recruited from here.

Some are even recruited from across the border, as the curious case of Karamat Rahi illustrates. Originally a Pakistani national, his story is illustrative of the murky work of espionage in which penury and desperation are attractive attributes in potential recruits and borders mere lines on the ground. Karamat’s father was a Mazhabi Sikh trader in Sheikhupura who converted to Christianity after Partition. After his death, Karamat came to India in 1980 on a Pakistani passport because, as he toldThe Hindu, he “like other Christians there, was being forced to convert to Islam.”

“Once in India, I was contacted by RAW and began running covert operations and helped recruit other agents for them.” His home base in Pakistan was invaluable for the agency, till he was arrested from Lahore in 1988 and sentenced to 14 years for spying. His salary at that time was Rs.1,500 a month, and he had been assisted to settle in Gurdaspur as an Indian national. “For a year after my arrest the government paid Rs. 300 a month to my family as pension, but stopped, presuming I had died when they got no other news of me.”

Karamat stayed in prison for 18 years. It was only in March 2005, when the former Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, went to Pakistan on a goodwill visit, that he, along with some other prisoners, were freed and sent home with the delegation.

Karamat moved the High Court seeking pension and a job for his son, but got a rude shock when instead of relief, the court fined him for wasting its time. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which asked him to provide proof that he was engaged in covert activities in Pakistan. “When the agencies recruit us, we are shown steps of gold. They promise us money and security for our families, all of which are forgotten when we are arrested,” he says. Karamat’s former employers offered him a small compensation amount of Rs. 2 lakhs to keep quiet, but he is bitter and refused. “I have spent the best years of my life in jail or working for this country. Now they shun me!”

There are many others. Kashmir Singh was working for MI when he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for spying in 1976. His sentence was stayed, but he remained in jail. In 2007, Pakistan human rights activist Ansar Burney discovered him in a Lahore prison and used his good offices to secure a presidential pardon for the Indian spy. When Kashmir Singh returned home after 34 years in 2008, he had converted to Islam and called himself Mohammed Ibrahim. Though the Punjab government gave him a plot of land and some money, his deepest hurt is over the abandonment by his former employer.

The petition of Balbir Singh of Amritsar in the High Court states that he worked for RAW between 1971 and 1974 and, after serving a lengthy sentence in Pakistan, he was freed in 1986. All that he wanted was that the period spent in jail should be treated as duty and he or his son be absorbed into service. Just before he died last year, he received a reply to an RTI application that he had moved, asking the government about the service benefits due to him. He was informed that since he was employed by RAW, his application has been moved to the cabinet secretariat for necessary action. His son is following the case in the court now.

Following Sarabjit’s death, former spies from Punjab and Jammu are now joining hands to renew their struggle for recognition and dues. “It is unfortunate how the government uses poor, gullible men like us, who are made to believe that we are actually serving the nation. As you can see, it is an illusion that gets shattered as soon as we are apprehended”, says Karamat. He admits though, that this has not deterred many more from joining the ranks that he has left.

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Joint Statement on Sixth meeting of the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners to Pakistan


May 03, 2013

  1. Members of the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners visited Pakistani Jails in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore from April 26-May 1, 2013. The members of the Committee, Justice (Retd.) Mr A.S Gill and Justice (Retd) Mr. M.A Khan from the Indian side and Justice (Retd) Abdul Qadir Chaudhry, Justice (Retd.) Mr. Nasir Aslam Zahid and Justice (Retd.) Mian Muhammad Ajmal from Pakistan side visited the Jails.
  2. A total number of 535 Indian prisoners including 483 fishermen (including 11 juveniles) and 8 civil prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at District Jail Malir, Karachi, 8 Prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at Adiyala Jail, Rawalpindi and 36 Prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore were presented before the Committee.
  3. The Committee also visited Jinnah Hospital, Lahore and saw Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital on April 26, 2013 following an assault on him by few other inmates in the prison and is in a state of coma. The Committee interacted with the doctors about the prognosis of the case. The Committee noted the unfortunate incident of violent attacks on two Indian prisoners at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore and recommended that Jail authorities to ensure adequate security for all Indian prisoners to avoid any such incident in the future; and would review the arrangements during its next visit to Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore. The Committee also recommended that detailed report of the official inquiry conducted by relevant Pakistani authorities on the assault on Sarabjit Singh on April 26, 2013 be shared with the members of the Committee at the earliest.
  4. The Committee was also informed about escape of one under-trial Indian fisherman from District Jail, Malir, Karachi on February 11, 2013 and detention of the crew of the two Indian wooden vessels along with its cargo, off Pasni, Pakistan on April 18/19 by Pakistan authorities and requested Pakistan side to apprise about these two incidents to Indian side at the earliest.
  5. The Committee noted with satisfaction that as per the Agreement on Consular Access signed on 21st May 2008 between the two countries, the list of prisoners was exchanged on 1st January 2013. The Committee appreciated the release of 684 Indian fishermen and 30 Indian civil prisoners by Pakistani authorities and 96 Pakistani fisherman and 59 Pakistani civil prisoners by Indian authorities since January 2012 till date.
  6. On the conclusion of the visit, the Committee made the following recommendations:

a) The “Consular Access Agreement” of May 2008 signed between two governments be implemented in letter and spirit and consular access must be provided within three months of the arrest and not after completion of the prisoners’ prison term. Complete details of charges on the prisoners and a copy of court’s judgment of the sentence be shared in each case. The prisoners must be repatriated within one month of confirmation of national status and completion of sentences;it was noticed that in District Jail Malir, Karachi, there were 29 Indian prisoners who had completed their sentence more than a month ago; it was recommended that they be released and repatriated before May 17, 2013 and the two Governments should make all efforts that the time schedule is complied with strictly.

b) Consular access must be provided immediately to all those prisoners who have not been given consular access so far and the process of nationality confirmation should start immediately after consular access is provided;it was found that there were 459 fishermen and 10 such civil prisoners in the three jails for whom consular access was not provided. The Committee recommended providing consular access to all such prisoners and fishermen before May 17and the Pakistani side agreed for the same.

c) Consular access be provided to all prisoners/fishermen who are believed to be Indian, in Pakistani jails and vice versa, every year, at least four times, namely in the first week of February, first week of May, first week of August, and first week of November.

d) The Committee noted that several names of prisoners had been dropped from the successive lists of prisoners, believed to be Indian, which were shared by Pakistan side twice every year. It is recommended that Pakistan side provide a formal verification to Indian side and vice versa if any names were left out from the previous list of prisoners, so that each side could follow up on each case and discrepancy in list maintained by each side reduced.

e) A mechanism should be developed for compassionate and humanitarian consideration to be given to women, juvenile, mentally challenged, old aged and all those prisoners suffering from serious illness/permanent physical disability;Indian prisoners (like Pakistani prisoners in Karachi jail) should be allowed to make phone calls to their relatives in India at least once a month. The Indian prisoners appreciated the provision of basic necessities to them by the Prison and further demanded that they should be given some additional facilities. It is recommended that the existing facilities be continued and additional facilities required be provided by the Prison Authorities. Further, High Commission of India is allowed to supplementing any such requests for Indian prisoners.

f) It was also recommended that serious/terminally ill, mentally challenged and deaf and mute prisoners must be kept in appropriate hospitals/special institutions irrespective of confirmation of their national status and offence;it would noticed that 1 prisoner in District Jail, Malir, Karachi, 2 prisoners in Adiyala Jail, Rawalpindi and 20 prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore were mentally challenged; additionally, copies of the FIR, medical report and photograph at the time of their detention, to be shared with the High Commission of India, so that renewed efforts could be made to confirm their nationality; moreover, effort should also be made to rule out that these prisoners are not Pakistani nationals.

g) While noting that mortal remains of Mr Chambail Singh, Indian prisoner at Kot Lakhpat Jail, was repatriated to India after a lapse of nearly 2 months after his death on January 15, 2013, the copy of the post mortem report has not yet been shared with Indian side. It was recommended that post mortem report of Mr Chambail Singh be shared with the Indian side without any further delay.

h) Prisoners involved in minor offences like violation of Foreigners’ Act, visa violation and inadvertent border crossing deserve compassion from both the sides.

i) The Committee noted that the respective courts must be requested for expeditious trial of all “under trial” prisoners. Respective High Commissions should create a panel of good repute lawyers/firms to pursue the cases of their prisoners in the local courts to locate, identify and defend such prisoners at all stages of their cases, if the prisoner(s) so wishes.

j) The Committee also endorsed the recommendations of the Home/Interior Secretary level talks held on 28-29 March 2011 at New Delhi to task the Pakistani Maritime Security Agency and Coast Guard of India to work on setting up a mechanism for release of inadvertent crossers (fishermen) and their boats, on the same lines as the inadvertent crossers on land; It was recommended that the fishermen should be repatriated by sea lanes along with their boats;a delegation of boat owners could visit Pakistan within the next 3 months to inspect all the Indian fishing boats detained in Pakistan so that decision could be taken regarding their return to India or sale in Pakistan, in consultation with concerned authorities and the same action be taken for return of Pakistani fishing vessels detained in India.

k) It was suggested that, subject to the confirmation of dates by both the sides through diplomatic channels, the next visit of the Committee to Indian jails will be arranged during the second half of September 2013 for at least 7- 9 days to ensure that the Committee is able to see each case in detail.

l) The Committee will review the action taken report on the earlier recommendations when the Committee meets next in India.

Justice (Retd.)Mr A.S Gill                                                             Justice (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Chaudhry
Justice (Retd.) Mr. M.A Khan                                                        Justice (Retd.) Mr. Nasir Aslam Zahid
                                                                           Justice (Retd.) and Mian Muhammad Ajmal

April 30, 201


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PressRelease- Joint Statement by Indians and Pakistanis on the Sad Demise of Sarabjit Singh

We the citizens of India and Pakistan are pained by the sad demise of Mr. Sarabjit Singh as a result of a dastardly attack on him in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, Pakistan by some inmates on 26th April 2013. We express our deep and heartfelt condolences for the family of the deceased.

Given the statements by most Indian prisoners in Pakistan jails of good and humane treatment, this unusual and inexplicable attack on Sarabjit Singh and the allegations of torture in the recent death of Chamel Singh in Pakistan jail indicate some conspiracy by vested interests to destabilize relations between India and Pakistan that were showing marked improvement in recent times. Hence we demand a thorough and complete investigation under the supervision of the UN or any independent international body.

Prisoners any where are the responsibility of the governments and the Government of Pakistan should immediately take strict and exemplary actions against all those responsible for the attack as well as the planners and conspirators. Pakistan and India should especially ensure that all steps are taken for complete protection and safeguarding all human rights of the prisoners of other country in their jails.



  1. Mahesh Bhatt- Mumbai
  2. Mazher Hussain- Hyderabad
  3. Ram Punyani- Mumbai
  4. Jatin Desai- Mumbai
  5. John Dayal- Delhi
  6. Javed Anand- Mumbai
  7. Jamal kidwai- New Delhi
  8. Kamayani Bali Mahabal- Mumbai
  9. Varsha Rajan Berry- Mumbai
  10. Sandeep Panday- Lucknow
  11. Feroz Mithiborewala- Mumbai
  12. Hasan Mansoor- Bangalore
  13. Vijayan MJ- Delhi
  14. Haris Kidwai- Delhi
  15. Ramesh Jadav- Amritsar
  16. Mohammed Turab- Hyderabad


  1. Mohammad Tahseen – Lahore
  2. Abbas Ali Siddiqui- Lahore
  3. Dr. A. H. Nayyar, Pakistan Peace Coalition
  4. Dr. Tipu Sultan, Pakistan Medical Association
  5. Qazi Javed, Forum for Secular Pakistan
  6. Zulfiqar Halepoto, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Sindh
  7. Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah,  PILER
  8. Miss Zeeenia Shoukat PILER
  9. B.M.Kutty, Pakistan Peace Coalition
  10. Dr. Haroon Ahmed, Forum for Secular Pakistan
  11. Ms. Sheema Kermani, Tehreek-e-Niswan
  12. Karamat Ali, PILER
  13. Muhammad Yaqoob, Takhleeq Foundation
  14. Syed Muhammad Ali Shah, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum(PFF)
  15. Dr. Ali Ercelan, PFF
  16. Shamsuddin, PIPFPD and HRCP
  17. Mir Zulfiqar Ali, Joint Action Committe, Karachi
  18. Ms. Farhat Perveen, NOW Community, Karachi

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