KARACHI: An Indian fisherman died in Landhi prison on Tuesday after a month-long illness to become second national of the neighbouring country to meet this fate within two months as the family of his fellow has already been waiting since December 2013 for the release of his body amid least interest being showed by the authorities on both sides to complete the ‘diplomatic process’ and ‘identity issues’.
An official at the Landhi prison confirmed to Dawn that Kishan, in his early 50s, died after being treated at the health facility within the prison.
The fisherman from the Indian Gujarat district had been complaining of severe cough, vomiting and pain in the abdomen when referred to be admitted to the jail hospital nearly a month ago, he said.
“He was quite ill,” said the official. The exact cause of death would definitely come to our notice after detailed medical examination, which included a complete post-mortem examination of the body, he added.
“Currently we are busy completing the formalities to convey the news to the relevant institutions.”
On Dec 19, last year 35-year-old Indian fisherman Bhikha Lakha Siyal died at the same prison after spending months following his capture by the marine authorities for illegally fishing in Pakistani waters.
As the family of Siyal back their home in India would have been waiting for his body to meet the religious rites they must not be aware of the ‘legal and diplomatic process’ that has yet to be completed by the authorities on both sides of the border.
Considering the history and witnessing the fate of Siyal’s body, another family in the neighbouring country seems to be going through the same experience. The authorities, though, claim to have already initiated the process for quick release of Siyal’s body have little to share that what force them to take almost two months to transport his body.
“Indian foreign office was informed about the death of our fisherman in Landhi’s jail today [Tuesday]. Further process would be followed to meet other formalities,” Janardan Singh, first secretary press and information for high commission of India, told Dawn over phone.
When pointed out almost two-month delay in the release of Siyal’s body, he only said that it was already under process and every due formality was being met to move the body to his hometown. However, peace campaigners have little doubt that the initiatives taken off and on for the quick release of the fishermen and their bodies from jails always come to nought for one reason or another.
In August 2008, a meeting of the Pakistan-India judicial committee arrived at a joint declaration, recommending that prisoners, like women and juvenile prisoners, terminally ill people or those suffering from serious illness or physical or mental disabilities, should be repatriated to their respective country. The same suggestions were also made for the fishermen of the two sides lodged in each country’s jails and quick release of their bodies if they die while being jailed. But peace activists hardly see any concern on any side.
“There are some 300 Indian prisoners in Pakistani prisons and some 245 Pakistanis are lodged in Indian jails,” said Mohammad Ali Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.
“But you hardly find the authorities on either side being concerned, which is really unfortunate. It has been months that fishermen were released by both countries. I can feel the pain of the families of deceased Indian fishermen, as the families here undergo similar agony if any Pakistani fisherman dies in Indian prison.”