Sunday, August 31, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Indian prisoner released by Pak, reaches Wagah
Our Correspondent and Agencies

Wagah (Amritsar), August 30
Ranjit Kumar (20), an Indian and a resident of Karyal village (Jammu region), today crossed over to India through Wagah checkpost after more than four years of imprisonment in Pakistan jails.

He had accidentally wandered into the Pakistani territory in June, 1999 from Jabdal post in the Jammu region when he lost his way in the dark. He remained in the Sialkot jail for two months and in Gujranwala jail for 13 months.

Though nobody from the family of Ranjit Kumar reached Wagah post, he was received by Mr D.K. Sharma and another senior BSF official.

While talking to mediapersons at Wagah, Ranjit claimed there were around 82 prisoners languishing in Pakistan jails.

When asked the condition of jails and treatment meted out to Indian prisoners in Pakistan he said Pakistan jails lacked in medical facilities.

He said at least 25 Indian prisoners had lost their mental balance due to inhuman conditions and lack of proper facilities available to the Indian inmates.

A weak-looking Ranjit Kumar said “I cannot express my joy after being released from the Pakistani prisons where I spent horrible years.”

Ranjit said he had completed his sentence in 2001 but was not released as his antecedents were not confirmed by the Indian Government on being asked to do so by the Pakistan Government.

“Later on, I posted a letter from jail and informed my family members living in Jammu to pursue my case with the Indian Home Ministry for the confirmation of my antecedents,” he said.

After this was done, the Pakistan Government decided to release Ranjit. This came about a fortnight after a 13-year-old Pakistani boy Munir, who had strayed into Rajasthan, was released by India.

Recalling the terrible conditions in Pakistani prisons, Ranjit said “No compassion could be expected from jail officials particularly for Indians who are lodged in the separate cells.”

“All Indian prisoners lead a horrible life in Pakistani prisons. Many of them have lost their mental balance as they do not keep any hope of coming out from behind bars in their lifetime as the Pakistan Government cannot release them unless the Indian Government comes forward to confirm their nationality,” Ranjit said. He said he had met Indians who had been in jail for over 20 years. “Four Indians died during the last three years in my presence,” Ranjit added. One of them was from Jammu and other from Punjab.

The teenager had some harsh words for the Indian Government also. “When Indian prisoners came to know about my release, they approached me with the request to air their condition before the media so that the Indian Government comes out of its deep slumber to help them,” he said.

Among the 82 Indian prisoners, included a 59-year-old soldier and about half-a-dozen Sikh youths, Ranjit said. He said mentally sick prisoners were being looked after only by other Indian prisoners.

Ranjit said that most of these 25 prisoners had completed their jail terms and the Indian authorities should make efforts to get them released. Besides these prisoners, a 59-year-old Indian Army personnel, had also been lodged in the Lahore jail for the past about 20 years, Ranjit said.

Ranjit was later handed over to the Punjab Police who would take him to Jammu. 

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