About 113 Indian fishermen, released from the Landi Kotal prison near Peshawar in North-Western Pakistan, arrived in Vadodara late on Monday night and were welcomed by BJP leaders including MP Ranjan Bhatt. The fishermen, who were released from Pakistan at the Wagah border arrived in Vadodara by the Golden Temple Express.
While 49 fishermen belong to Kodinar and 41 to Una in Gujarat, five natives of Uttar Pradesh also arrived in the batch of fishermen released from Pakistan. The fishermen said they had lived years behind bars, after being captured by Pakistan Marine forces, only with the hope of returning home some day. Mohammad Rizwan Khan, a 28-year-old resident of Badin in Uttar Pradesh spent close to two years languishing in the Pakistani jail, after being caught by the Pakistani marines in August 2013 from Jakhau river, where he was employed.
Rizwan said, “My group of five fishermen had strayed into the Pakistani waters thoughtlessly on that ill-fated day. We were caught by the Pakistani marine officials, even though we had barely breached the water borders. However, they took us along, beat us with belts and rods and forced us to admit that we were Indian spies. We lived alive in the jails, only wishing to return home one day.”
When Rizwan gets home in UP on Thursday morning, he will meet his 18 months old daughter, Afshan, for the first time. “My wife was two months pregnant when I was caught. I had just arrived in Kutch to make a living fishing. After my arrest, my wife had to take up loans to keep the family going. Now, I do not think I will pursue fishing for the rest of my life,” Rizwan said.
Another fisherman, Dahya Bhagwan said he strayed into the deep waters from Jakhau, in 2012, in an attempt to catch fish species that are popularly in demand abroad. “I did not realize when I crossed over to Pakistan. I was immediately intercepted and picked up by their force. I am lucky that I am returning home after three years. I broke into tears when I crossed the border to enter India. There are many unlucky fishermen still locked inside the Pakistani prisons,” Bhagwan said.
Vadodara MP Bhatt, who welcomed the fishermen along with Mayor Bharat Shah and BJP city unit president Bharat Dangar said, “We are hoping that the Central Government in coordination with the state government and the Gujarat Fishermen Association will be able to secure the release of other fishermen who are unfortunately imprisoned in Pakistan. India has also released some Pakistani fishermen as a goodwill gesture and our government is working hard to ensure that innocent people will not languish behind bars.
Three of the 113 fishermen, who arrived in Vadodara, are disabled. The fishermen said that a Pakistani charity organization, Abdulali Sattar Foundation handed over 100 USD and a pair of new clothes to them as a farewell gift.