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'Indians in Pakistani jails mentally ill'

india Updated: Jun 22, 2007 14:04 IST
Palash Kumar

At least half-a-dozen Indian prisoners in a Pakistani jail are mentally unstable and have no memory of how they got there, a delegation of Indians who met them said on Friday.

The group went to Pakistan earlier this month on a fact-finding mission to trace the whereabouts of their relatives who went missing while fighting the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

The families were invited by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to look for their loved ones as relations improve between the two countries following a peace process which began in 2004.

They did not find any of the prisoners of war but said they met 59 Indian prisoners in Lahore who said they were there for at least 10 years and of whom, 6-7 were mentally ill.

Both countries routinely arrest either country's nationals on charges of crossing the border either accidentally or knowingly, as alleged spies. They also hold scores of fishermen who stray into each other's territorial waters.

"Some of them were insane," said GS Gill, who led the delegation. "We could make out their state. They were not saying anything. One man kept his eyes closed and was murmuring something."

Prison records seen by the delegation said they were Indian nationals.

"They could not speak, remember their names or where they are from in India," said Damayanti Vijay Tambay, a member of the group.

Officials in New Delhi said they can not confirm or deny claims made by the delegation but added they are aware some Indian prisoners in Pakistan have become mentally unstable due to long years of captivity, harassment and poor jail conditions.

Pakistani officials refused to comment despite repeated interview requests. Pakistan has always denied holding Indian POWs.

The South Asian arch rivals have fought three wars since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.


Relatives said Pakistani authorities did not allow them to see prison records, visit detention facilities and mental asylums and talk to officials involved in the interrogation of Indian prisoners during the 1971 war.

"We got a feeling that while they were not lying, they were also hiding something," Gill said. "In some jails, we sensed there were a separate category of prison records which were not shown to us."

The Indian defence ministry said these issues would be taken up with Pakistan.