New Delhi: The special plane sent by India to bring back the body of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoner who died this morning in Pakistan, has been delayed due to basic paperwork not being done at the Lahore airport, compounding the anguish of hundreds of people and Mr Singh's family now waiting in Amritsar to receive his body.
Officials said India is extremely upset about the delay. The plane was scheduled to land in Amritsar after the short flight by 5.15 pm, but it has not yet taken off from Lahore. It has been over two hours since Pakistan handed over Mr Singh's body to Indian officials.
From Amritsar, a helicopter will fly Mr Singh's body to Bhikhiwind, his ancestral village in Punjab. The state government has declared him a martyr and has decided to accord him a state funeral there tomorrow.
India has reacted furiously to the death of Sarabjit Singh, who was badly beaten last week by fellow inmates in jail. The government described it "extremely inhuman and barbaric".
Pakistan had rejected three appeals from India in the last week, while Mr Singh was comatose in hospital, that he be treated at home. Latest developments suggest a new strain on bilateral relations. The BJP has demanded a down-scaling of ties.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today that "The criminals responsible for the barbaric and murderous attack on Sarabjit Singh must be brought to justice." His death has been condoled by the Indian Parliament in a resolution.
Mr Singh's family, which was in Delhi after returning from Pakistan on Wednesday afternoon, was visited this morning by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.
On Friday, Mr Singh was admitted to hospital with severe brain injuries after he was hit on the head with bricks by a group of prisoners. Doctors had warned from the start that his recovery was unlikely; he was comatose and on ventilator support. Two men have been arrested in Pakistan for Mr Singh's murder.
Pakistan has, over the years, maintained that Mr Singh was a terrorist. He was given the death sentence in 1991 for bombings a year earlier in Lahore and Faisalabad in which 14 people were killed.
His family insisted he was merely a farmer who became a victim of mistaken identity after inadvertently straying across the border.