New Delhi, July 15 (Calcutta Tube) With External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Pakistan for talks, a family from Punjab Thursday appealed to the Indian government to help a man who is languishing in a Pakistani jail even after his sentence of 14 years is over.
Gopal Dass, a resident of Bhaini Mian Khan village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, was arrested by the Pakistani Rangers in 1984 when he crossed the border by ‘mistake’ during a trip to his maternal uncle’s place in Jammu, says his family.
‘It was just by mistake that he entered Pakistan. He was put on trial there and sentenced to life on the charge of espionage in 1987. Though his sentence completed in 2005, the Indian government is not ready to take him back,’ his brother Anandveer told IANS from Punjab over phone.
He said that though the case is before the Supreme Court, which in its hearing July 7 asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium to take instructions from the central government on the petition, he would be happy if the government accepts him as its citizen.
‘As our External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is in Pakistan, I would request him to talk to the Pakistani authorities over the issue of prisoners. My brother’s case should be given priority as his is a genuine case and the government should understand it,’ Anandveer said.
His lawyer Arvind Sharma said a petition was filed in this regard in 2008 in the Supreme Court seeking its intervention in the matter. Initially, the apex court had asked the petitioner to move a Pakistani court, but later it intervened.
‘Our argument in the case is that if an Indian arrested on charges of espionage in Pakistan is released after serving the sentence, why is the Indian government reluctant to recognise him as its citizen?’ Sharma told IANS.
Dass, arrested at the age of 22 by the Pakistani rangers, is a bachelor, said his brother, adding that both his parents died soon after his arrest.
Dass, who is currently lodged in Kot Lakhpat jail of Pakistan’s Lahore, is the youngest of his four brothers and two sisters.
‘My brother sent us a letter in 2005 saying his sentence was over and now he is living on the mercy of the Pakistan government in jail. Then, the Indian authorities were approached for his verification, but they declined to accept him as its citizen,’ Anandveer added.
He said his 95-year-old uncle and some elders in the family want him to come back early so that they can see him before they die.
(Rajeev Ranjan Dwivedi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)