LAHORE: A 13-year-old fan of Indian actor Ajay Devgan who had crossed over the Indian border to meet the star but was jailed a year ago, returned to Lahore on Tuesday thanks to efforts of two women, one from Pakistan and the other from India.
Kashif Ali of a village in Depalpur had crossed the Husainiwala, Kasur, border nearly a year ago after escaping from a madressah (seminary) where his widow mother wanted him to study.
However, soon after crossing the border he was arrested by Indian authorities. He was kept in Faridkot’s Child Observation Centre since then.
To his sheer luck, Ajoka Theatre visited the town (Faridkot) to stage its famous play Bullah. Here Sessions Judge Ms Archana Puri met Ms Madiha Gohar of Ajoka Theatre and showed her concern for Kashif, requesting the latter to locate his whereabouts in Pakistan so as to ensure his return home.
Ms Gohar says she was moved by the concern shown by Ms Puri for the child. Later, Ms Gohar visited the centre and interviewed the child. Upon her return, she contacted the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Pakistan authorities, and released the recorded interview of Kashif to the local media.
Soon the boy’s whereabouts were located and the authorities on both sides of the border arranged for his repatriation.
On Tuesday, Ms Gohar crossed over Wagah Border to receive Kashif Ali who was accompanied by Ms Puri. The Indian woman gave gifts, including some books, to Kashif, whereas his Pakistani sympathiser promised to arrange his meeting with Mr Devgan on the condition that he would not repeat the adventure.
“Ms Puri mentioned the presence of many Pakistani children in Indian jails with concern, and she wants them to live with their parents and not lose their innocence in confinements,” said Ms Gohar.
Kashif was happy over his return home. He said he was treated kindly by the Indian authorities. In the observation centre, he used to study and work.
His widow mother, Kulsoom, who rears her six children all alone, was also jubilant. She was thankful to Ms Gohar and Mrs Puri for arranging her son’s return.
Ms Gohar said the authorities on both sides of the border, with the help of civil society, must wage a joint struggle for the safe repatriation of the innocent children who cross over the border.— Intikhab Hanif