Attari (Punjab), Apr 7 : Gopal Dass, who spent 27 harrowing years in jail in Pakistan after inadvertently crossing the international border, returned to India Thursday afternoon, happy but also bitter.
The 50-year-old unmarried man beamed as he waved to family members waiting for him at this border checkpoint, only about 30 km from Amritsar.
In brief remarks to reporters, Gopal Dass criticised the Indian government for not doing enough for Indian prisoners jailed in Pakistan.
He was released earlier Thursday from Lahore’s Central Jail where he was serving life imprisonment on charges of spying.
His family has maintained that Gopal Dass was an innocent man who strayed into Pakistan by mistake in 1984 while visiting an uncle close to the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
The distraught family then shifted from Gurdaspur, one of Punjab’s border districts, to Chandigarh.
He was set to be released by the end of this year. However, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari announced his release March 27 on humanitarian grounds - ahead of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to Mohali to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup semifinal.
Pakistan said this was done to honour the appeal of the Indian Supreme Court to the Pakistani government. The Supreme Court intervened while disposing a writ petition filed by Gopal Dass through his brother.
The Supreme Court had observed: “We cannot give any direction to Pakistani authorities because we have no jurisdiction over them. The Indian authorities have done all that they could in the matter.
“However, that does not prevent us from making a request to the Pakistani authorities to consider the appeal of the petitioner for releasing him on humanitarian grounds by remitting the remaining part of his sentence.”
Although arrested in 1984, he was sentenced to life in June 1987.