KARACHI: Twenty Indian fishermen were released from the District Prison and Correctional Facility Malir on Sunday.
All the fishermen released were arrested at sea four years ago, in 2018. They all had the same story about having unknowingly crossed over into Pakistan territorial waters.
“My old parents, my five little children, my poor wife have had to really suffer in my absence while I was in jail here for no purposeful fault of mine or theirs for that matter,” said Meru Devsi, whose eyes became moist upon the mentioning of his children. He said his wife Bhanu has had to work as a labourer in his absence to run the household.
The fishermen said that they have been completely cut off from their families. They have received no letters from them in all this while. Whatever little news they got about their families was from the other fishermen also arrested at sea for the same reason after them.
It is a constant traffic of fishermen getting caught at sea. Indian fishermen often cross over to this side from Gujarat. And Pakistani fishermen wander off from our Thatta side at Sir Creek.
Once in jail, the Indian fishermen are normally unable to get into the normal rehabilitation programmes because they don’t follow Urdu language very well or the Urdu script. They are then put into handwork or crafts classes where many enjoy leaning beadwork. All the fishermen being released this time were wearing some kind of beaded jewellery. Some wore lockets, some bracelets.
Wearing a green, white and orange bracelet, Dinesh Megha proudly pointed out that they were his flag colours. Dinesh was in jail with his maternal uncle Jiva Parbat and now both uncle and nephew were glad to be going home together. Both also stood out from the rest as they had applied surma to their eyes and oil to their hair.
Jiva also wore a Sindhi ajrak over his left shoulder. He said he bought the ajrak from the little money he made from the beadwork in jail and the hair oil and surma, which he insisted on calling kajal, was bought by his nephew from the jail shop.
The fishermen included seven Muslims, who, when asked, said that they received no special favours from the prison staff.
“We were all treated well in your jail here. We were all offered the best food here as well. There was mutton, chicken, fish and eggs offered to all of us but since I like vegetables I would have vegetables more,” Aqeel Younus told Dawn.
Meanwhile, addressing the media, Assistant Superintendent Malir Jail Kamran Ahmed Sheikh said that the fishermen of both India and Pakistan are absolutely innocent people who do not deserve punishment.
“We also treat them with kindness in our jails because they are not criminals after all,” he said, adding that he wished that the Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails for years also be treated kindly by the jail authorities there.
The released prisoners were named: Kanji Jadav, Mano Narain, Dana Wagha, Jewa Parbat, Ramesh Days, Dinesh Megha, Devsi Babu, Meru Devsi, Narain Oghad, Bhanra Karu, Lal Jee Rukhad, Nanji Hameer, Dinesh Bhekha, Abu Ghaffar, Younus Alu, Nisar Haroon, Aqeel Younus, Ameen Suleman, Fareed Anwar, Anees Qadir.
They were all properly vaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of their release.
All were being taken to taken to Lahore by road by the Edhi Foundation. They were also presented with sacks full of gifts along with some cash by the Foundation.
In Lahore, the 20 fishermen will be handed over to the Indian authorities via the Wagah Border on Monday (today).
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2022