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Briton treks into Uttarakhand jail

Daniel who trekked across Himalayas to retrace an ancient Chinese route is behind bars, reports Neelesh Misra.
None | By Neelesh Misra, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2007 04:06 AM IST

Adventure can have a hefty price tag — 38-year-old Daniel Robinson is paying for his wanderlust in a dank Uttarakhand jail. The borders have chained his feet.

The British adventurer who trekked 3,000 km across the Himalayas with two horses to retrace an ancient Chinese route is behind bars with a one-year sentence for illegal entry into India. He confesses his "crime" and pleads for mercy.

A court in Uttarakhand’s Gopeshwar town will decide on February 12 whether to accept Robinson’s plea to review his punishment and reduce it to the three months he has already served, his counsel HC Pujari told the Hindustan Times over telephone.

Robinson left England more than a year ago to trace the ancient Tea Caravan trail with a group of Tibetans from the Chinese mainland to Lhasa in Tibet.

He began his journey with a pair of horses through the oxygen-sapped, often icy terrain, his family said. He strayed into Indian territory when one of his horses fell ill and another became pregnant.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police spotted the bedraggled Robinson — physically-drained and hungry — with his horses near Mana in October last year and took him into custody. Mana is the last outpost in the region bordering China.

“Daniel has been naïve and foolish," his family said in a petition against his sentence.

“By entering the Indian territory through a disputed border, and without an entry visa, he has committed a crime. (But) he gave himself up … and entered India with no criminal or evil intent."

His family said Robinson suffered from kidney infection and asthma, and was sharing a cell with 20 people, who smoked.

The petition said alternate prison accommodation had not been provided to him despite requests by the British High Commission. British officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday. “When he went inside the lock-up, he felt kind of choked. I took him to a hospital. But he recovered,” said Shram Singh Negi, who is in-charge of the Gopeshwar lock-up, from where the prisoners are sent to jail.

But Robinson had no health complications later, the local police chief said.

“When I first saw him, he walked in with a swagger, a jacket flung carelessly on his arm. He looked like a tourist. He was of athletic built and I asked him repeatedly whether he had any problems with the food or the soap or the medicine. He said ‘none’,” said Pushkar Singh Sailal, the police superintendent of Chamoli district, where Gopeshwar is located.

Robinson has had his share of  family support. His 19-year-old daughter travelled from the United Kingdom to visit him in custody on December 15.

On January 9, a local magistrate found Robinson guilty but sentenced him to a year, compared with the maximum term of five years. He was sent to the Pauri jail.

(With inputs from Deep Joshi in Nainital)

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