Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Subhash Ghai to make film on Sarabjit Singh - The impact on Indo-Pak Relations

Sarabjit Singh

Films have always been a powerful medium. Especially so when a film reflects real life incidents perplexed with confusion, portrays personalities who have left behind unanswered questions and explores controversial relations between India and Pakistan.

Producer- Director Subhash Ghai is planning to make a film based on Sarabjit Singh, an Indian death row convict who was murdered by fellow prison inmates in Lahore, Pakistan, earlier this year.

Sarabjit Singh’s life has been fraught with controversy, both whilst alive and posthumously.

Singh had been convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 with relation to the 1990 bomb attacks in which fourteen people in Lahore and Faisalabad were killed.

The Pakistani government accused Sarabjit Singh of not only being a spy playing a vital role in the bombings, but named him as ‘Manjit Singh’.

His family persistently argued Sarabjit Singh to be innocent, falsely accused for the crime and a victim of mistaken identity. They insisted that Sarabjit Singh was a Punjabi farmer who had accidently strayed across the border into Pakistan whilst drunk. 

After his death in May 2013, a woman named Baljinder Kaur claimed to be Sarabjit Singh’s real sister. She stated that Dalbir Kaur, who famously claimed to be Singh’s sister and campaigned tirelessly for his release, had side lined away Singh’s real family.

Dalbir Kaur dismissed this claim and stated that she had never met any Baljinder Kaur. She added that people were coming to the forefront for cheap publicity whereas whilst campaigning for her brother’s release, she struggled for support.

Sarabjit Singh had been imprisoned in Lahore for twenty two years. Five mercy petitions had been filed, all ending with failure. In 2009, British lawyer Jas Uppal appealed to human rights organisation and lawyers to bring Sarabjit justice through the website: www.freesarabjitsingh.com

Uppal highlighted the trial to have been unfairly conducted and inconsistent with evidence. It was pointed out that evidence provided by the main witness altered between hearings; the trials were conducted in English whereas Sarabjit Singh could only understand Punjabi; Sarabjit Singh’s identity was never proved in court or confirmed through forensic evidence to have been linked with the bombings.

Despite the setbacks, it finally seemed that Sarabjit Singh had been released on June the 26th, 2012. However, the Pakistani government denied any such thing and claimed to have had in fact released another Indian inmate- Surjeet Singh. The news that Sarabjit Singh had been released was dismissed as a media blunder by Pakistani officials.

Sarabjit Singh was attacked with bricks, iron rods, metal sheets and blades by inmates at the Lahore prison he was held at. He died within a week after the attack.

Sarabjit Singh’s murder was reported as having flared up in reaction to Afzal Guru’s execution in February 2013.

Afzal Guru was accused by the Indian government to be a Kashmiri jihadist responsible for the 2001 Indian Parliament attack.

In fact, it was reported that despite a lack of evidence, Guru had been ‘secretly’ executed by the Indian government.

Both Sarabjit Singh and Afzal Guru’s deaths respectively signify the delicate relations between India and Pakistan, Hindus and Muslims as well as the growing animosity.

These incidents and deaths cannot help but provoke if the tragedy of the Partition of India, 1947, can ever find peace.

Interesting to question is how and through what ways will Ghai’s film tackle these incidents, as well as if the film will have an effect on the continuous shaky relationship between India and Pakistan.

Ghai confronted the topics of religion, bombings and politics through his 2008 film ‘Black and White’.

The film explored the journey of a fundamentalist Muslim suicide bomber, Numair Qazi, who gains the trust of a Hindu family living in Chandni Chowk, Delhi.

Through the family’s help, Numair acquires a pass to Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort, the vital location which is marked as the spot to carry out his mission, his jihad.

Although provoking a controversial and sensitive subject, ‘Black and White’ did not do well at the box office. However, the film did receive critical acclaim.

Sharing his thoughts on the prospective Sarabjit Singh film, Ghai reportedly stated:

“It’s a sensitive story and we feel it needs to be told. We have spoken to his family and they are quite okay with it… they have given their approval for the project,”

Perhaps through Ghai’s film, the audience will gain an intimate and new insight into both Sarabjit Singh’s life and question what future South Asia wants- history should not repeat itself.



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