New Delhi: Six years after Pakistan conveyed to India about 17 mentally unsound Indians languishing in jails in that country, efforts to confirm their identity have not yielded any result despite the Ministry of Home Affairs putting up their photos on its official website and seeking assistance from the general public as well as states and UTs.
They have completed their sentences but due to non-confirmation of their nationality they could not be repatriated to India, an official said.
Among the 17 prisoners in Pakistan who are believed to be Indians, four are women and were named Gullu Jan, Ajmeera, Naqaya and Hasina by Pakistani authorities.
The others are Sonu Singh, Surinder Mahto, Prahalad Singh, Silrof Salim, Birju, Raju, Bipla, Rupi Pal, Panwasi Lal, Raju Mahouli, Shyam Sunder, Ramesh and Raju Rai.
The MHA has said anyone who can identify these 17 persons should give information to the Under Secretary (Foreigners) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the home department of state governments or union territory (UT) administration concerned or respective Director General of Police or Inspector General of Police or Commissioner of Police.
“Photographs of 17 mentally unsound persons, believed to be Indian nationals, who are lodged in jails in Pakistan, are attached. These persons have not been able to disclose any other particulars about them including the names of their parents or relatives, address in India, etc. due to their mentally unsound condition,” the MHA notification said.
In 2015, Pakistan had conveyed to India about these 17 Indians lodged in their jails and said they have completed their jail terms in that country but they cannot be sent back home as they are unable to recall their whereabouts since they are mentally unsound .
As Pakistan failed to get details of their background, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was then given special consular access to these prisoners hoping to make breakthroughs.
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad had sent the pictures of all these 17 prisoners to the Ministry of External Affairs to trace their family members.
The MEA subsequently forwarded the pictures to the MHA to help identify their families and homes in India.
Since then we have put their photos on the MHA website but so far no clue has been received from anyone. We have shared their photos with the states and UTs but no information has been received from them, a home ministry official said.
Many of them seem to be old in the pictures provided by Pakistan. The prisoners could not disclose any other particulars during the consular access in 2015.
There are Indian and Pakistani prisoners in each other’s jails and the two countries share the list of their inmates twice every year.
Despite tensions in bilateral relations, the two countries have been exchanging the lists of prisoners without any break over the years.
India-Pakistan relations deteriorated after Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad targeted a CRPF bus on February 14, 2019 at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir killing 40 jawans.
Days later, Indian Air Force fighter jets bombed a terrorist train camp deep inside Pakistan.
Relations further nose-dived after Pakistan objected to India abrogating Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.