Presently, around 224 prisoners, believed to be Indian, are lodged in Pakistani jails, for civil cases. However, authorities there have acknowledged only 55 prisoners as on December 31 last year. Out of these 55, six prisoners have already completed their prison term but are compelled to stay in jails because they are awaiting a confirmation of their nationality.
Activist Pradeep Kumar who filed the RTI query said that 212 Indian prisoners, essentially fishermen, are languishing in Pakistan's jails. "As the government has no data of 'completion of sentence' and 'national status' for majority of the prisoners, it implies that numerous prisoners would have completed their sentence long back," he said.
The prisoners are also devoid of legal aids. The Indian government does not provide any legal aid to the prisoners. "Legal assistance is the right of the prisoners which they should not be deprived of," says Kumar. Most of the prisoners are poor and their families back home in India do not know how to take up the issue with the government. Even the government does not periodically review the records to know the status of these prisoners.
The TOI report mentions Yashpal, a Bareilly resident, who had trespassed into Pakistan and was lodged in the central jail of Sahiwal in Pakistan. Now he is in a state of mental imbalance.
"After we took the case of Yashpal in the first week of May this year, the files moved forward," says Kumar. Yashpal was released in July this year but he had lost his sanity by that time.
"Unable to bear torture at the Pakistan jail, Yashpal became mentally unstable. Doctors have asked me to take him to a city hospital for treatment which I cannot afford," says his father Babu Ram, an agricultural labourer.
Besides Yashpal, six other prisoners were released on the same day, out of which four were suffering from mental illness. Even in August last year, 11 Indian prisoners in Pakistan jails wrote to the Indian and Pakistan governments requesting for death sentence saying "it will end our pain and a life of hell."
The letter had also mentioned that nearly 21 other Indian prisoners, including four women, have become mentally unstable due to "excessive torture" and now, they are not even in a condition to say their names.