Pak frees Indian national held for 27 years

Indian national Gopal Dass stands on an immigration desk at Pakistani border post Wagha along the Indian border following on his way to his country on April 7. Das was set free after 27 years following an appeal by the Indian Supreme Court. Das was jailed on spying charges for life imprisonment. (AP Photo)
LAHORE/ATTARI (AMRITSAR), April 7 (PTI): Returning to his country after 27 years, Indian national Gopal Das on Thursday came home to an emotional welcome by his elder brother and sister who had last seen him as a young man. 52-year-old Das was set free after Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari remitted his sentence on humanitarian grounds following an appeal by the Indian Supreme Court. Das crossed over to the Indian side of the border from Pakistan at the Joint Checkpost here after being freed by the authorities in the neighbouring country.
As soon as he entered India, he bowed his head on the soil and kissed it as tears welled up in his eyes. Das’s family members, including his brother Anand Vir, two sisters and niece Navjot besides, a dozen people from Bhaini Mian Khan village of Gurdaspur district of Punjab who were here to receive him. Gopal hugged all his family members as they broke down in tears. Lamenting that he had lost the “golden period of youth behind bars in Pakistan, he asked the Indian government why it was sitting silent for the last 27 years. “I have a grudge against the Indian leadership who has never bothered about Indian prisoners rotting in prisons in Pakistan for the last many years.
“32 Indian nationals, who have completed their jail term, are still languishing due of lack of initiative on the part of the Indian government,” he claimed. Thanking the president and prime minister of Pakistan for releasing him, Das said he was also thankful to the Supreme Court of India for his release but said the role of Indian leadership was “disgusting”. He claimed that seven such Indian prisoners who had already completed their sentence died due to ill health. Nearly one dozen Indian nationals have almost lost their senses. Das had crossed over to Pakistan inadvertently in 1984 and was arrested by Pakistani Rangers on charges of spying. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and was set to be released by the end of this year.
Struggling hard to control his tears, Das’s elder brother Anand Vir, said, “It was the voice of the Supreme Court judge which came out from the deepest core of his heart and heard by Almighty, which ultimately fell in the ears of Prime Minister and President of Pakistan.” Anand said that he did not have any hope from the Indian leadership as all their requests went unheard but the request at the door of God was heard. His elder sister Krishna Devi, who is too weak to move but still managed to reach Attari border to receive her brother, said, “Gopal was young when he was arrested in Pakistan and now there are lot of changes in his appearance. I am enormously happy to see my brother alive here on Indian soil.
“At one time the entire family had lost all hope to see Das again but God is great,” said Devi with tears in her eyes. She told her brother: “I know how I spent 27 years in your absence, since in these years I missed you immensely especially on the festivals of Raksha Bandhan and Tikka. Navjot, Das’ niece said, “My uncle was in Pakistan’s prison at the time of my birth. Now I am delighted to see my uncle in the family. I think God has honoured all my prayers”. On March 27, Zardari had remitted the remaining jail term of Das. The diplomatic gesture came ahead of PM Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to India to watch the Indo-Pak World Cup semi final at Mohali.