The recent incident of a Barmer youth, Gemararam’s arrest in Pakistan after he crossed the international border over a trivial family dispute, has brought the focus back on four locals perishing in Pak jails for more than three decades.
Bhuvnesh Jain, director at Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan in Jaipur and the convener of Thar Jagruk Manch, has raised the issue of Barmer residents languishing in Pak jails, in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, foreign minister S Jaishankar and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
The letter requests the governments to ensure the safe return of Gemararam, the last person from the district to cross over to Pakistan, and take up the issue of the four remaining residents stranded in Pakistan for nearly three decades.
19-year-old Gemararam Meghwal, resident of a Barmer village, had crossed the international border on November 4 last year and is now stranded in Pakistan. Pakistan rangers have confirmed to the Border Security Force (BSF) that Gemararam is in the custody of Sindh police. Though efforts are on for his return, however, when he will be allowed to return, is not yet clear.
Jain’s letter says Bhagu Singh of Gohad Ka Tala, Teelaram of Bheelon ka Tala and Sahuram of Sarupe ka Tala villages of Chohtan block in Barmer and one Jamalddin from Ramgarh village in Jaisalmer are “missing” since the 1980s and are believed to have crossed over to Pakistan by mistake while grazing cattle.
At that time, there was no fencing at this section of the Indo-Pak border, the letter says. The number of such missing people was earlier 10 but six of them were released by Pakistan in 2010.
A survey in villages bordering Pakistan, conducted in Barmer and Jaisalmer in 1996, by social activist Bhuvnesh Jain, gathered details about ‘missing’ residents believed to have strayed into Pakistan.
Later, Jain’s RTI applications revealed that about ten people from Barmer and Jaisalmer were lodged in Pakistani jails. Jain launched a movement for the release of these prisoners and his efforts resulted in freedom for six persons in 2010.
However, there is no clue about the whereabouts of Bhagu Singh, Teelaram, Sahu Ram and Jamaluddin. Their families claimed that they initially received letters by the missing members, written from inside Pakistani jails. Bhagu Singh’s family claims to have received his last letter in 2011, showing his presence in Kot Lakhpat jail in Karachi.
“Government should take up the case of Gemararam and others on humanitarian grounds. Bhagu Singh, Teelaram, Sahuram and Jamalddin have lost their whole lives while perishing in Pak jails, it should not be repeated in Gemararam’s case, Jain pleaded in his letter.”
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Revenue minister Harish Choudhary told HT that he had raised the issue of these men perishing in Pak jails on several occasions in the Parliament.
Choudhary said his continuous efforts had resulted in the release of six prisoners and he had himself welcomed their return at the Wagah border.
“In the recent episode of Gemararam, his family members met me for his release. I will write to the Central government to take up this issue. I will also request the government to take up the issue of the rest of the Barmer men, perishing in Pak jails since decades,” Choudhary said.