Two days ahead of Independence Day, 133 Indians, including a woman, walked across the Wagah border free beings after being released from Pakistani jails.
Emotions ran high as 100 fishermen and 33 other civilians started coming in one by one, eight of whom seemed to have lost their mental balance. One woman, whose documents were not found to be in order by authorities at Wagah, was sent back to Pakistan.
The men also brought back news that is sure to bring cheer to families whose loved ones are still missing and believed to be in jails across the border. Tarsem Singh, a resident of Gurdaspur and one of the 133 to be released, claimed there were many prisoners of war lodged in Pakistani jails. He alleged the PoWs were confined to underground cells, where no one was allowed to enter, and that they were subjected to torture. He claimed the families of PoWs from India who recently visited Pakistani jails were cheated by authorities there and not allowed to see their kin.
"I also met Sarabjit Singh in Kot Lakhpat jail. He cried a lot and was desperate to return home," Tarsem added.
Most of the men said it would be difficult to forget the dark days in Pakistan. Charan Singh, 47, from Dera Baba Nanak, who spent three and a half years in jail, said: “I didn’t expect to ever be able to celebrate Independence Day with my family but by God’s grace, I am free today. However, I will never forget the inhuman treatment given to me in Pakistan."
Ram Prakash, 45, from Rajasthan, said he was lucky to be released after only 22 months as there were many Indians who had been in Pakistani jails for years. Vijay Kumar from Jammu and Kashmir said he had crossed over by mistake and was happy to be back with his family. Most of the fishermen said they were worried about their future as they had lost their boats, their only source of income.
Pakistan’s decision to free the prisoners was in accordance with the joint statement issued after the home secretary-level talks in New Delhi on July 3-4.