“I have learned some hard lessons in the last 10 years. I don’t even think of escaping or doing anything that is in contravention of law. Where will I go even if I manage to flee?” says Mohammed Imran Warsi, as he watches officials at Bhopal’s Shahjahanabad Police Station.
In his late thirties, Imran has spent more than nine months at the police station waiting to be repatriated to Pakistan. The police station has become his home ever since he was released after spending 10 years in jail on charges of espionage, and for forging documents to get a passport from Bhopal.
His sentence ended in January, but Imran had to spend two more months in jail because he did not have money to pay the Rs 8,000 fine slapped by the trial court. He was released from Bhopal jail on March 14 and sent to Shahjahanabad Police Station, a nodal station where foreigners like him are kept till they are repatriated.
The officials today confirmed that Imran will leave Bhopal on Monday and cross the border on Wednesday.
On November 6, he was told to get ready to be taken to the Wagah border, but his hopes of returning to Pakistan were soon dashed after he was told that he was not going that night. If Jatin Desai, a Mumbai-based activist is to be believed, Pakistani officials were waiting on the other side of the border but Imran did not make it.
Since then, things have not changed for the man that the Madhya Pradesh police Special Task Force had charged with collecting sensitive information about the Army.
“Due to elections some paper work was not ready,” admits Chief Superintendent of Police (Shahjahanabad) Nagendra Pateriya. He believes the special branch of the MP Police is yet to receive a no-objection certificate from the External Affairs Ministry. Shahjahanabad Police Station in-charge Shailendra Mukati echoes his senior about paperwork not being ready.
Imran claims he just wanted an Indian passport because he had married his cousin, an Indian, and had two sons and wanted to live in India. He says of some of his uncles stayed in India while his father moved to Pakistan during Partition. After living in Kolkata for more than four years, he says he came to Bhopal in 2008 because he had heard he could easily get a passport made. He claims he asked for a share of his forefather’s property, which is when his Indian relatives got in touch with the police and revealed that he was a Pakistani.
The STF, however, has a different story. The agency said he was arrested with two others because he was spying for Pakistan. When the police nabbed him, he had a ration card and a PAN card.
When Syed Abid Hussain, a former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activist, came to know about Imran, he launched the campaign #HelpImran from his Twitter handle. Hussain says he occasionally gets home cooked food for Imran because he is moved by his plight.
Imran says the police station staff has been nice to him but he wants to return to Pakistan at the earliest. His wife and children, now 13 and 11, have not contacted him. He says he somehow wants to be reunited with them, either in Pakistan or in India.
Desai says when it has been proved that Imran is a Pakistan national and has served his sentence there be should no further delay in repatriation. He says cases like these entail that India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners be revived. It was set up in 2008 and comprises retired judges of higher judiciary. They used to meet twice a year – once in Pakistan and once in India. However, the last meeting was held in October 2013. While India has nominated four judges, Pakistan has not, Desai says.
Meanwhile, Imran says, “Maybe I was destined to eat dal-roti here.’’ Having lived at the police station for months, he is more familiar with it than the policemen.