“The lady doth protest too much…”


India, Pakistan and Kirpal Singh



“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The quote is appropriate for India as it spares no opportunity to criticize Pakistan and blame it for everything under the sun, protesting at the drop of a hat. Recently, quinquagenarian Kirpal Singh, apprehended in 1992, sentenced to death by Pakistani courts for spying and terrorism, died in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail after suffering a heart attack. Indian authorities and the very vociferous and strident media built up a crescendo claiming foul play by Pakistan. All kinds of conspiracy theories were spun. It was even surmised that Kirpal Singh was the next door occupant of the cell in which Sarabjit Singh was residing. Sarabjit Singh too was an Indian spy, who had been arrested and tried for conducting terrorist attacks in Lahore and Faisalabad. Pakistani judicial system had found him guilty of the crimes and he was condemned and sentenced to death in 1991.While in prison in April 2013, he was attacked by fellow inmates and died six days later at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore. Indian media now conjectured that Kirpal Singh was privy to the murder of Sarabjit Singh and had been silenced by the perpetrators of the crime. The armchair analysts should be asked why the perpetrators waited for three years to shut the mouth of Kirpal Singh. Neither the case of Sarabjit Singh’s murder been reopened nor was any fresh inquiry into the crime ordered.


To provide credence to the conspiracy theory of Kirpal Singh’s alleged murder, his sister was tearfully presented before the media, claiming that she had received a letter a month before his death, in which he made no mention of any heart ailment. Indian protestors may be asked whether any prisoner after spending twenty five years in prison cannot be subjected to sudden onset of cardiac problems. Initially India was complaining that its Foreign Office was informed of the demise of Kirpal Singh two days late. They forget that he died on a weekend and one had to wait for the next working day to formally inform the Indian External Affairs Ministry bearing the sad news.


Later Indians became impatient and jumpy that Pakistan was delaying handing the mortal remains of Kirpal Singh to India. They themselves were also demanding that Pakistan conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.


Now that the body of Kirpal Singh has been handed over, India is raising loud complaints that his vital organs, including the heart, stomach and liver, have been removed. In accordance with India’s desire, they have been removed for forensic tests, which are being carried out at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital. Formally Pakistan should have waited for the results of the autopsy before returning the body of Kirpal Singh but since India was getting edgy and irate at the delay, Pakistan went ahead with returning the cadaver.


A postmortem examination conducted at the Amritsar Medical College has been unable to arrive at a conclusion about the cause of his death. Doctors who conducted the postmortem said the body had no external or internal injuries nor was there any evidence of foul play.


Kirpal Singh’s last rites were performed at his hometown Gurdaspur after his body was handed over to his family earlier this week along with his belongings, which include his last letter to the family that he was unable to post. “I am not keeping well these days and you are not writing any letters to me,” read the letter, written in Gurumukhi. 

Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh, has added a new twist, claiming that she was worried about safety of other Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails. She states that she has written to the government of India about 74 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails. They are under threat, especially two prisoners, Kuldeep Kumar from Ahmadabad and Ansari from Maharashtra, who are in danger.


Dalbir Kaur, who was getting intolerant about the return of her brother’s corpse and was also demanding immediate post mortem of his mortal remains, now claims that she does not trust any autopsy by Pakistan. She informed Indian media that postmortem in India will bring out the truth about his death.

Indian External Affairs Ministry had directed its envoy in Islamabad to take up the death of Kirpal Singh “at the highest level”. Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs bent backwards to expedite the return of Kirpal Singh’s body only to face more remonstration, gripe and protest from India. The forensic team at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital is conducting the autopsy on priority but Indian grumbling is ceaseless.


Pakistani diplomats must take Indian petulance with a pinch of salt. They should go about their diplomatic tasks with normal pace and not see too much in the Indian childish and peevish attitude. Readers may recall that in October 2011, within a few hours of its forced landing, a straying Indian Army helicopter along with its crew members was released by Pakistan as a gesture of goodwill. Pakistan Army allowed the chopper to return to Kargil after refueling the machine and providing directions to the pilots. However, Pakistan’s benevolent motion was spurned by the Indians, who indulged in their usual blame game, saying that the incident was being probed at a high level because the GPS data of the helicopter was wiped out, along with nicknames and code signs of all the helipads in the Nemu, Leh-based 14 Corps, which is responsible for the defence of Kargil-Leh, Siachen Glacier and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with Tibet.

To start with, if the helicopter was equipped with GPS, there is no reason for its straying off course and violating the Pakistani air space; secondly, helicopter landing pads are hardly a classified data in this age of satellite imagery, since they are visibly marked in Jeppeson navigation manual and other aviation charts, and Pakistan would have no need to steal them from the Indian helicopter.


Unfortunately, Pakistan is dealing with an enemy that cannot be satiated and will protest under any pretext.