Call us home, Indian ’spy’ in Pakistan jail tells government

March 4th, 2008 - 12:50 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) As Kashmir Singh prepares to return home after 35 years in a Pakistani jail, another Indian national has written to the chief justice with an impassioned appeal that India must own up to “spies” like him who have been languishing in prisons across the border for decades. Gopal Dass, who was arrested by Pakistani forces on July 27, 1984, and claims to be an Indian spy, sent his letter to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan on Oct 10 last year from the Mianwali Jail in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

It landed in the chief justice’s court as a vital annexure to a petition accusing the government of callousness in securing the release of about 200 Indians, including prisoners of war, spies and other citizens, imprisoned in various Pakistani jails.

The letter forms the basis of the Supreme Court on Feb 18 asking for the government’s response on the plea. A bench of the chief justice, without actually issuing notice to the government, asked Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati to respond to the petition within four weeks.

Addressed and delivered to his brother Anand Vir of Faridkot in Punjab, Dass makes a fervent plea: “Dear brother, please tell the apex court judge about us and request him to ask the government why they don’t take back the Indians who have sacrificed themselves for their motherland. Are they not Indian citizens?”

Written in a mix of Hindi and Urdu, Dass goes on to ask: “Are the ministers blind or deaf? Judge sahib, please ask them why they don’t take their country’s spies back. Do we have to give them money?”

Implicating both India and Pakistan, Dass asks: “How can Indian and Pakistani ministers say that they do not indulge in espionage against each other?”

“It’s known to the entire world that both countries indulge in espionage. Every time a spy is held, it’s reported by the entire media, including the BBC.”

Dass says the Indian government has virtually forgotten nearly 200 prisoners like him and goes on to detail the plight of four other prisoners who he says completed their sentence at least five years ago, including Kashmir Singh who has just been freed by President Pervez Musharraf from Lahore’s Central Jail after spending 35 years in Pakistani jails.

Identifying Kashmir Singh as the son of the late Samar Singh of Nangal Choran village of Hosiarpur, Dass writes: “Kashmir Singh, who has been languishing in various Pakistani jails for last 34 years is with me here. This man was a prisoner on death row but has escaped the gallows owing to the Simla Agreement. This man had been held in Pakistan on June 19, 1974.”

“His family members too are trying their best to secure his release and the Pakistan government assures them, as they assure everybody else, that he would be the first to be released. But the hopes of release have only proven to be a mirage, eluding us all alike.”

The three other co-prisoners identified are “Karmat Rahi, son of Sath Shama of Fateh Gargh Churian in Punjab, Chaman Singh, son of Ujagar Singh of Singoke village under (the jurisdiction of the) Ram Dass police station (state unknown) and Vijay Kumar, son of Krishna Chand of Mansar village in Jammu”.

About himself, Dass has written, “I was arrested in Pakistan on July 27, 1984, and was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment on Oct 26, 1986. I had applied to the interior ministry of Pakistan for pardon and my sentence was remitted by six years and now I am an internee here in Mianwali Jail, Pakistan.”

Legal experts say that the sensitivities involved would mean that the Indian government would always officially deny that it had ever sent any spy to Pakistan. Owing to the legalities, even Dass’ brother Anand Vir has not identified him as an Indian spy in the petition.

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