M A I N   N E W S

Gopal Dass back home, but with a heavy heart
Says govt doesn’t care a bit about Indians rotting in Pak jails
Perneet Singh & PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Attari, April 7
Gopal Dass, an Indian national who inadvertently crossed over to Pakistan in 1984, today returned to an emotional reunion here within days of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari remitting his jail term on humanitarian grounds.

Emotions ran high as Dass stepped onto the Indian side via the Wagah-Attari border where his family members, relatives and even residents of his native village, Bhaini Mian Khan in Gurdaspur district, had been waiting anxiously for him since morning.

Tears rolled down cheeks of his brothers and sisters as they opened their arms to welcome him back. They then garlanded Gopal and offered him sweets amid heavy presence of mediapersons.

Talking to the media, Dass lashed out at the Government of India for its “apathy” towards Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistan jails for years. “Nobody in India cares about the prisoners rotting there in jails. I have myself seen five to six Indian prisoners die during my stay at Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. I know about 23 Indian prisoners who have already served their jail term, but are still awaiting their release. One Sukhbir Singh has completed his term around six months back. Apart from these 23, there are 8 prisoners who have been jailed on spying charges,” he said. Gopal Dass said many Indian prisoners have lost their mental balance due to long imprisonment and subsequent failure of the government to take up their cases with Pakistan.

He rued that that the people sent across the border for gathering intelligence inputs get a raw deal from the government once they are caught and their families are left at the mercy of God. “The government here cares two hoots about those who give their lives for their country. Nobody should cross over to Pakistan on the directions of any intelligence agency,” he cautioned. His brother, Anand Bir, who fought a long battle to see this day, was also bitter about the treatment meted out to them by the government.

“We received only Rs 10,000 when Gopal was caught in 1984 and after that no government official came to inquire about our well-being. Even now the credit for his early release goes to the Supreme Court of India which appealed to the Pakistan Government for the same. We had to struggle a lot to prove that he is an Indian. We knocked at every door but nobody came to our rescue. We have fought for his identity and now we will fight for his rights as well,” said Bir.

It was a touching moment for Dass’ septuagenarian sister Krishna Devi who put a garland of currency notes around his neck with her trembling hands as tears welled up in her eyes. “I have reared him as my child as we lost our mother when he was only 10. I would miss him on festive occasions like Rakhi and console myself by putting a ‘tikka’ on his photograph,” she said.





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