Indian prisoner returns from Pakistan after 27 years
Attari (Punjab): Gopal Dass, arrested in Pakistan 27 years ago after being dubbed an Indian spy, returned home Thursday afternoon and immediately accused New Delhi of ignoring Indians in Pakistani prisons.
With a bulging black travel bag slung from his right shoulder and carrying a plastic bag in the other hand, Dass spoke to reporters briefly while being ringed by Border Security Force personnel.
“I am very happy I have finally managed to come to India. There was a time when I had lost all hopes of returning. It is a miracle,” Gopal Dass told IANS.
“It is like a dream come true. I am very eager to meet my childhood friends and my relatives.”
He added: “I want India-Pakistan relations to improve from here. There is no difference between the people of both countries.”
Although he smiled a lot, he accused the Indian government of not doing enough for Indians jailed in Pakistan.
“Our political leaders are blind and deaf. They cannot see and feel the suffering of the Indian prisoners. The government is not doing anything. I saw many Indian prisoners die in front of my eyes.
“Others are either sick, suffering or in a mental state,” a visibly disgusted Gopal Dass said.
“Which country does not spy? People like me have suffered and many Pakistanis are languishing in Indian jails.
“Even Americans spy but their government does not allow its people to suffer in prisons. There are 30 Indians languishing in Lahore jail out of which eight are (accused of) spying,” he said.
“This India is not that of Mahatma Gandhi. This is the India of scams and corruption,” he added, quickly voicing support to anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.
“I have missed out on my entire life (while in Pakistan). I have not thought what I will do now. I will see what the government does for people like me,” he said.
Authorities in Pakistan earlier Thursday freed him from Lahore’s Central Jail where he was serving his term.
Gopal Dass’ brother Veer was overcome by emotions.
Veer Dass told IANS: “I cannot express my feelings after seeing my brother after so many years.”
Veer Dass said his brother would be taken to Bheni Mia Khan village in Punjab’s frontier district of Gurdaspur where a big welcome party had been arranged for him.
Gopal Dass was set to be released by the end of this year. However, on March 27, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari announced he would be let off on humanitarian grounds — ahead of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to Mohali to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup semifinal.
He was arrested in Pakistan in 1984. Since then he had been lodged in a Lahore jail.
His family has maintained that he was innocent and that he crossed into Pakistan by mistake while visiting an uncle living near the Jammu and Kashmir border.
About two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of India had urged the Pakistan government to release Dass. This followed a writ petition filed by him through his brother.