A day after being repatriated from Pakistan, Indian fishermen recalled tales of horror and how they lost the hope of returning to India when a war-like situation emerged between the neighbouring countries in the aftermath of Pulwama attack.
One hundred fishermen, who were arrested for trespassing into Pakistani waters and violating international maritime borders, were repatriated from Pakistan via Attari-Wagha border on Monday evening. They were kept in Amritsar’s Red Cross Bhawan, from where they would be leaving for Gujarat on Wednesday.
The released fishermen say they were confined to barracks after Pulwama attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy, in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
“I along with 43 other fishermen was arrested by Pakistani coast guards for entering into the neighbouring country’s territory in December 2017. We were lodged in a Karachi jail in Pakistan. There were around 500 Indian prisoners in the jail. In February, when the war-like situation emerged, all Indian prisoners were confined to three different barracks. We were not allowed to come out of the barracks even for a minute,” said Rohit, 40, of Gir Somnath district in Gujrat.
Another fisherman Mukesh, 20, said, “In February, the jail officials told us that a war has broken out between India and Pakistan and thus we were to be confined to barracks until the situation normalises. After hearing this, some of us had lost the hope of returning to our country. We prayed for peace between the countries.”
“Earlier, the jail officials used to tell us that we would be released soon. But after the situation escalated in February, no one told us anything about our release. When we were released on Saturday, we did not take it seriously as we had lost any hope of returning to our country,” said Bharat, 23.
Another fisherman Dhanu, 45, said, “We are very happy that finally we are in our country. As there is no clear demarcation in the Arabian Sea, we totally rely on the GPRS system in boats. But sometimes it too fails and we inadvertently cross the border. The government of both the countries should have a pact to release fishermen immediately on crossing the border by mistake.”
Most of thefishermendo not own boats and work on salary ranging between Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month. “We are forced to do the same work after returning to Gujrart as there is no other source of income in our area,” said a fisherman.
The repatriated fishermen are of the second batch of the total 360 Indian prisoners lodged in Pakistan jail. On last Monday, Pakistan had repatriated 100 fishermen in the first batch. Pakistan had announced to set free the prisoners in four batches. Third batch of 100 fishermen will be repatriated on April 22 and the fourth batch of 55 fishermen and 5 civilians will be released on April 29.
Apr 17, 2019 14:17 IST