Wednesday, April 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak jails haunt Roop Lal
From R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 18 — Roop Lal might have returned to India, but the quarter century of prison life in Pakistan continues to haunt him even today.

“I don’t get a sound sleep even today. Though I know that I am with my daughter, I still think this is a dream and I don’t want it to be shattered,” said Roop Lal, who languished in different Pakistani jails since 1974.

“Several times I pinch myself to confirm that it is not a mirage but a reality.”

“Even today I get up at 3 a.m. to do some exercise as I had been doing all these years secretly.”

Describing his ordeal in prison, Roop Lal said “I underwent physical and mental torture for years.”

“I was given electric shocks and made to stand with hands tied for couple of days together, I was hanged upside down, beaten black and blue and forced to lie down on an ice slabs,” Roop Lal said in a choked voice.

“I had to fast for several days as they were hell bent on converting me. Only I know, how much resistance I had to put up and for that I had to starve. The prison officials would put beef in my food so that I become polluted,” Roop Lal said, who spent a considerable part of his sentence in solitary confinement.

He used to get food twice a day — once early in the morning and then around 6 in the evening.

He described his 25-year ordeal in different Pakistani jails as one of hell only in mythological stories.

“If there is hell in the world, it is there in Pakistani prison,” Roop Lal said, trying to imitate the famous lines about Kashmir — If there is a heaven on this earth, it is here.

Keeping him company all these years despite the mental and physical torture was the holy scripture Gita, which he was able to get after spending a few years in the cell.

“What kept me going all these years is the Bhagwat Gita. It is such an inspiring book that I used to forget all my pains and found solace whenever I read it,” he said.

Roop Lal was indicted on eight counts under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to death. However, this was commuted to life imprisonment by the former Chief of Army Staff, General Jehangir Karamat, following a mercy petition filed on behalf of Roop Lal by the NGO, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

“The death sentence of my father-in-law was converted to life imprisonment due to the efforts undertaken by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and specially, its chairperson, Asthma Jahangir,” said Dr Krishan Kumar, his son-in-law.

Another person whom the family remembers with gratitude is Brigadier Abid Hamid of the HRCP, who worked tirelessly and helped Roop Lal in escaping the death hook.


I shared prison with Bhutto
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, April 18 — Former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and I were in the same prison, Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, after he was ousted in a military coup, said Roop Lal, the Indian prisoner, who spent 25 years in different Pakistani Jails.

“Though I did not meet him personally, as he was under heavy security, through the prison officials and other inmates, I gathered several vital information during his stay in prison,” Roop Lal told The Tribune.

Not willing to disclose the information he gathered during Bhutto’s stay, Roop Lal said: I plan to write a book about my experiences.

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