Arrested by Pakistan authorities in March 1994 on ‘espionage charges’ and released from jail on August 22 this year, the Gujarat man reunited with his family after spending more than 28 years in jail and sought help from the Indian government in bringing back other compatriots suffering in prisons across the border.
Kuldeep Yadav (59) entered India via the Wagah-Attari border in Punjab and reunited with his siblings (one sister and three brothers) in Ahmedabad on August 25. He urged the Indian government to help him with his rehabilitation to minimise dependency on his family members.
“Even the shirt I am wearing now is from Pakistan. I do not even have my own clothes,” Kuldeep said.
In a plea, he begged the Indian High Commission in Pakistan for understanding the plight of Indians languished in jails in the neighbouring country for over many years even after serving their terms.
“Several incarcerated Indians have lost their mental balance and cannot even remember their names because of intense torture at the hands of Pakistani authorities. Such people continue to remain in jail even after their sentence is over,” Yadav said.
Further, while talking to reporters at his sister’s residence, based in Ahmedabad’s Chandkheda locality, he stated, “Whenever we requested the Pakistan government and jail authorities to release us, they’d say only one thing, ‘that the Indian government was not accepting us’. When the Indian government does not accept us, then release becomes difficult.”
“When they are caught there and tortured, their life is ruined. They are not able to recall anything, even their names. They may have forgotten their names, but they are all Indians, and the government here should help bring them back,” he said.
Mentioning a couple of other Indians – Bablu Ram, who he said, has got his Aadhaar card with him. One or two have even had their passports along.
“It is for the Indian government to seek their release because they went there out of patriotism, for the work of the country,” Kuldeep urged.
He also stressed over the release of Pakistani prisoners- “I want all the Indian prisoners languishing there to get the same happiness of reuniting with their family members that I have got today. The Indian government should release Pakistani prisoners jailed here in return for Indians jailed in Pakistan.”
Yadav’s sister Rekha said she was confident to see her brother one day.
“I had full confidence in God that my brother would return home. Today I am very happy. I tied rakhi on his hand and I am very happy. I have got my brother after a long tapasya (austere devotion),” Rekha said.
Yadav and his siblings exchanged letters over the years, some of which would reach him in jail but many won’t.
“For the last several years, even the exchange of letters had stopped. We only hoped the government would do something for us,” she said.
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad had informed Yadav’s family members through a letter dated February 1, 2007, that he had been kept at Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore.
Yadav had penned down about his plight that he was caught by Pakistan authorities on March 23, 1994 and was kept in detention for three years.
A military court in Pakistan had sentenced him for 25 years on snooping charges and he was shifted to Kot Lakhpat jail in the year 1996.
In the year 1989, Yadav left home in a spirit to find a job in the national capital, but he did not specify the nature of the employment.
The family later lost all contact with Yadav, a law-graduate from a Gujarat-based University.
Yadav is among a few fortunate Indians who returned safely after suffering in jails across the border for over half of their life.
The neighbouring country Pakistan on July 1, 2022 had confirmed that it has 682 Indians in its jails, as Islamabad and New Delhi exchanged a list of civilian prisoners and fishermen in their custody, a routine practice between the two neighbours under the provisions of the 2008 Agreement on Consular Access.
The lists are routinely exchanged twice a year — on January 1 and July 1 respectively.
In the carried list Pakistan had shared with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, a list of 682 Indian prisoners detained in the country, including 49 civilians and 633 fishermen, according to a statement released by the Pakistan Foreign Office.
Subsequently, the Indian side had also exchanged a list of 461 Pakistani prisoners in India, including 345 civilians and 116 fishermen with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
India had insisted Pakistan should expedite necessary action at its end to confirm the nationality status of 57 Pakistani prisoners, including fishermen, whose repatriation is pending for want of nationality confirmation by the neighbouring nation.