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Sarabjit Singh's funeral at his village in Punjab today

Sarabjit Singhs funeral at his village in Punjab today

Amritsar: The body of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh arrived here Thursday evening from Lahore on a special Air India flight.

The aircraft carrying the body landed here almost one hour behind expected time after red-tape by Pakistani customs and anti-narcotics departments delayed its departure from the Lahore international airport. The flight was held up as clearances were sought before allowing it to take off.

The flight landed at Guru Ram Das Rajasansi international airport near here just minutes later.

The body was received by Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and other top leaders, including Punjab Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia at the airport.

Authorities are likely to fly the body on a helicopter to Bhikhiwind town, 50 km from here. They will decide whether to get a post-mortem conducted.

He will be cremated in Bhikhiwind on Friday.

Meanwhile angry resident of this town held protests Thursday and kept the entire town shut. Shops and educational institutions also remained closed.

Protestors gathered at various places and condemned the "cowardly" act by Pakistani authorities which led to Sarabjit's death. Residents of the town mourned his death and said the Indian and Pakistani governments could have saved him.

The town Thursday woke up to receive the sad news of his death in a Lahore hospital.

Residents of the town saw celebrations and disappointment within a few hours in June in 2012 when reports first said that the Pakistan government had announced his release.

However, in a flip-flop, the Pakistani authorities later clarified that not Sarabjit Singh but another Indian prisoner, Surjeet Singh, was being released.

"We were expecting a miracle to happen. We wanted Sarabjit to recover. What the Pakistanis have done is cowardly. He had suffered in their jails for nearly 23 years and now they have murdered him," a visibly upset Bhikhiwind resident Kirpal Singh said as he and some others gathered outside the house of Sarabjit's family.

Some residents also gathered outside the local gurdwara and protested against Pakistan.

"Residents of the town were hoping and praying that Sarabjit would return in their midst one day. The Pakistani authorities have killed him by conspiracy," another resident, Amrit Kaur, said.

Sarabjit, 49, suffered critical head injuries after an unprovoked and sudden assault by other prisoners April 26.

Sarabjit was on death row in Pakistan since 1990 after being convicted by Pakistani courts for bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan, which left 14 people dead.

Sarabjit's family claimed that he was innocent and was arrested when he crossed over to Pakistan in an inebriated state.

Police in Pakistan, however, claimed that Sarabjit Singh was involved in terror strikes.

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