KARACHI: Pakistan released 20 Indian fishermen from the District Prison and Correctional Facility, Malir, on Sunday morning.
All ready for departure in a coaster arranged for them by the Edhi Foundation, the deportees sat in three neat rows with their few belongings and Covid-19 vaccination cards in hand. Most were imprisoned after crossing over to Pakistani waters four years ago with some also leaving after five years.
Many wore colourful beaded necklaces and bracelets around their necks and wrists. They had made those themselves. Since the education provided to prisoners in jails here is in Urdu or English, the Indian fishermen find it very hard to follow. Therefore they fare better in learning handicrafts or vocational training.
There was something very special in Ravendra Govind and Makwaran Bhawesh Kumar’s luggage. It was a model of a Pakistani Coast Guard boat made of blue and white beads. There was also a small white helicopter and a lifeboat resting on one of the decks of the bigger boat.
They are expected to reach Lahore today
“It is a model of the boat which arrested us at sea four years ago,” said Ravendra. “Its image is imprinted in my mind so me and my friend here”, he gestured towards his friend Makwaran, “started working on this model,” he smiled.
But the beautiful boat bore an Indian flag and the name ‘Jiyan Ind’ on one side. The men had also given it the name Ravi.Vadhel. Asked why it didn’t carry the Pakistani boat’s name, Makwaran added that though the image of the boat they could not get out of their heads, the Indian flag was imprinted on their hearts.
Both the friends said that their parents back home had found suitable brides for them and they would be married soon after reaching home.
The jail staff when calling out the names of the deportees came across two names for whom they said, “Oh come on, won’t you stay longer. We will miss you here,” followed by giggles and laughter all around. The fishermen said that they have been treated very well by the jail staff with whom they also made friends.
“The food served to us was exceptionally delicious. We would get chicken dishes three times a week, eggs every morning with paratha, toast and great tea. “But our favourite dish in jail will have to be karhi-pakora,” said Himat Balal Babu.
Another deportee, Arjun Babu, was sporting very long tresses. He said that he had been growing his hair from the time of his arrest five years ago. “It was for the fulfilment of my wish to be released soon. It was a mannat,” he explained. “My hair grew so long and I believe it is thanks to my mannat that all we 20 are being released today,” he said, adding that he would get a haircut as soon as he reaches home but not immediately just to be safe. “I’ll look for a barber after crossing the border,” he smiled.
Meanwhile, Ravendra said that he was glad to be leaving for home now but was sad about leaving behind several other Indian fishermen in jail for also having crossed over to Pakistan unknowingly like him. “Please release them also so that they can be with their families,” he pleaded. He also said he will also ask the authorities in India to release the Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails for years for the same offence.
All the deportees belonged to the Indian state of Gujarat.
The names of the rest are: Ranveer Maoo Jee, Babu Naran, Bhupat Bhagwan, Naran Parbat, Bhavesh Shara Bhai, Rukhad Arjun, Dana Bhupat, Ransi Bachu, Pola Sahur, Meepa Aama Bhai, Biso Naga, Parma Haresh Kumar, Paresh Bhai, Taba Bhai, Vaju Lakhman and Juseb Moosa.
The deportees were presented with gift bags and a sum of Rs5,000 each by the Edhi Foundation, who were also responsible for transporting them to Lahore.
They are expected to reach Lahore, by road, on Monday evening from where they would be handed over to Indian authorities through the Wagah Border.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2021