In Jammu, Prisoners Detained for Border Crossing Languish in Jails Despite Completing Their Sentences

29 April 2016
Pakistani army officers (L) greet Indian officers prior to the opening of the fourth crossing point for aid supplies on the Line of Control (LOC) at the Mendhar Nala sector in Tatta Pani
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani army officers (L) greet Indian officers prior to the opening of the fourth crossing point for aid supplies on the Line of Control (LOC) at the Mendhar Nala sector in Tatta Pani
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

A very frail figure, draped in a beige shawl in the sweltering heat and sporting an olive green Pakistani salwar, accompanied by a police official, tottered towards a chair in the Amphala prison compound. Mohammad Nazir Rahi, is a supposedly 80-year-old alleged Pakistani national who was an under-trial when I met him at the Amphala jail, in Jammu in August 2015. In the time I spent with him, he spoke incoherently, repeatedly murmuring “Mujhe do rupaye mein bech diya hein”—I have been sold off.

Access to Rahi was not easy. Security in the prisons had tightened following an attack in Udhampur in the Jammu region in which two LeT armed terrorists attacked a Border Security Force (BSF) convoy. My visit was just the day after, and the police authorities in Jammu asked me to hand them my questionnaire. I was told I had to confine myself to the questionnaire or my interview with the prisoners would be terminated. Following this, I had to hand over my notes too for screening. They were only returned to me in November 2015.

A senior BSF official who asked not to be named, told me that Rahi was apprehended by the BSF on 8 October 2014 at Suchetgarh in Jammu district. At that time, Rahi provided sketchy details to the officials. He told them that on 3 October 2014, he had left Lahore for Sialkot by bus for his medical treatment at a place called Jalal-Hakim. The next day, his daughter and her husband visited him and all three of them stayed there for around four days. Subsequently, his daughter and her husband returned to Lahore while Rahi claimed to have lost his way and reached the India-Pakistan border, inadvertently entering Indian territory.

The BSF contacted the Pakistan Rangers on the day of Rahi’s detention with the aim of handing him over to the authorities in Pakistan. They provided the rangers with a photograph of Rahi and the contact information they had been given by him. However, his antecedents could not be verified. The BSF handed him to the state police on 13 October 2014 at RS Pura in Jammu district, and, after being charged for border crossing, Rahi was subsequently incarcerated.

In 2012, during a bi-annual meeting between the BSF and Pakistan Rangers, both sides discussed the issue of inadvertent crossing of nationals across the borders. I was given access to a file containing the minutes of this meeting. Regarding the “violation of International Border by Pakistan nationals and delay in handing over of border crossers, both sides agreed to ensure timely communication of information about inadvertent crossers.” Both sides further agreed that “efforts should also be made to deter inadvertent crossers before the situation arises for apprehension by the other side.” Despite this, as is evident in the case of Rahi, the provisions of the meeting on inadvertent crossing have not translated into reality.

Meha Dixit has a PhD in International Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, has taught at Kashmir University and worked with Amnesty International.

Keywords: Indo-Pak border prison life Jammu
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