BODIES OF two Gujarat fishermen who died in Pakistan jail around two months back have not been repatriated till date and now fishermen leaders have sought intervention of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the matter. In fact, body of one of the fisherman has been waiting repatriation for the last 70 days, making it the longest delay of its kind in recent times.
Vagha Chauhan, a fisherman from Una taluka of Gir Somnath who was lodged in Malir Jail of Pakistan died on December 22, 2015. Two months later, another fisherman identified as Ratandas Makwana, a resident of Nanavada village in Kodinar taluka of Gir Somnath, also died in the same jail on February 8 this year. The duo were arrested by Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) for allegedly crossing over to Pakistani waters while fishing in the Arabian sea. However, bodies of neither fisherman have been sent back to India till date.
Expressing concern over the delay, Manish Lodhari, vice president of Shree Akhil Gujarat Macchhimar Mahamandal wrote a letter to the External Affairs Minister on Tuesday seeking her intervention. “I… want to inform you that our two fishermen who were arrested by Pakistan Marine Security Agency last year have recently died in Malir Landi Jail, Karachi, Pakistan due to some illness and (their bodies) are now under EIDI Foundation’s custody…. I request you madam that please try and use your influence to bring both dead bodies as soon as possible from Pakistan because their families are waiting to see their beloved ones last times and perform their last rituals,” Lodhari wrote.
But fisheries commissioner MA Narmawala said that Gujarat government had completed all the formalities. “We have conveyed to Pakistan the consent of families of the fishermen to bring back the bodies. We also sent a reminder to Government of India last week over the issue. Now, we are waiting for Pakistan to complete the procedure and fix a date for sending back the bodies,” Narmwala told The Indian Express.
Gujarat fishermen often get caught by PMSA while operating near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), the contested notional water boundary between India and Pakistan in the Arabian sea. According to fishermen leaders, more than 450 fishermen are presently languishing in Pakistani jails.
“In their latest communication last month, the Indian High Commission had informed us that they were pursuing the matter. But bodies are still lying the Karachi morgue,” said Jatin Desai, general secretary of Indian chapter of Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, an NGO working for better relations between India and Pakistan.
Deasai urged that governments of both the countries should reactivate India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners. “This joint committee used to meet Indians lodged in Pakistan jails and vice versa and look into matters like consular access was given to them etc. But the committee has not met for the last two years,” he said.
The secretary further said that the committee had also recommended to release all the fishermen languishing in each other’s jail but governments have not acted on it.