15 more Indian fishermen released
KARACHI, Nov 11: Although they were glad to be returning home, finally, the 15 Indian fishermen being released from the Malir district prison on Sunday were also sad to be leaving behind a few of their friends picked up by the Pakistani authorities much before them.
“The people here have been good to us. We have been treated well. But still home is home and I’m aware how much our other fishermen friends in jail here are yearning to be back with their families,” said Vijay Lakhmal Cholangi from Diu, an island off the south coast of Gujarat’s Kathiawar peninsula. The fisherman was being released after six months in jail.
Of the 149 Indian fishermen in the prison, there are seven who have been here for over 18 to 19 months. “The Indian government is yet to confirm their nationalities,” Amir Baig, a clerk in charge of most of the paperwork for foreign prisoners at the Malir prison told Dawn. “The other 142 were recently picked up at sea by the Pakistan Coast Guards and are still under trial.”
Three of the seven men, brothers Kumar Kara and Saudus Kumar, and Bharat Bachu, watched from afar with eyes brimming with tears as the 15 being released went about collected their belongings before boarding the coach that was to take them to Lahore from where they would be handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border on Monday morning.
“I wish I wasn’t just seeing them off but accompanying them to India,” said Kumar Kara. “We were caught on April 16, 2011, and we are still here. I have two sons and a wife waiting for me back home. I don’t know when our turn to go back will come. My family wrote to me that they had written to Delhi requesting the Indian government to resolve our nationality issue as soon as possible. I don’t know when they will reciprocate.”
Meanwhile, one of the Indian fishermen, Premji, being released on Sunday said he was grateful to the Pakistan government for acknowledging their festival and releasing them to be with their families for Diwali. “Today is Nov 11 and Diwali falls on the 13th.
So I don’t think we would have reached home by that time as we have a lot of distance to cover. Still we would be in India for Diwali and there will be a lot of celebration at home as my family, wife, three-year-old daughter, parents and brothers have already been informed about my release. They are expecting me back,” said the young man smilingly.
Another, Prakash, was sporting a bright red tilak under his cap visor. “It’s from Yogita, my wife,” he said. “She sent me the kumkum in her letter to me. We have been married only recently,” he said shyly.
When asked if any one of them had thought about doing something other than fishing, that got them into so much trouble, after returning home, Amrut Lal Jeeva, only smiled and shrugged. “What else to do? Fishing is all that we know. It is our livelihood,” he said before boarding the coach and waving goodbye.