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Mumbai Man found in Lahore Jail after eight years

Letter from Pakistan – I want to return home

Vile Parle man who went missing in ’05 found in Lahore jail

After his father passed away, Bhavesh left home for Amritsar, hopped on to Samjhauta Express and crossed into without any papers

Nazia Sayed, Mumbai Mirror
Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 09:39:40 PM

The man in the photograph is 32-year-old Bhavesh Kumar. He went missing from Mumbai eight years ago. The letter you see is one he wrote to his mother – 57-year-old Hansa Kantilal Parmar – in February this year. She got the letter from a man called from Ram Rajji, who described Bhavesh as being “very quiet”, as being a man who cried when he thought of home but at most times recalled nothing.

Rajji had spent time with Bhavesh in jail; a jail in , where Bhavesh has spent the last eight years remembering and forgetting the past. For Hansa, the letter has brought fresh hope that she may yet see her long-lost son.

Bhavesh’s and his mother’s story reads like a melodramatic film script, even if no one’s sure how it will end. According to the version the police managed to piece together, Bhavesh had drifted into depression after his father’s death. He stole money from home before boarding a train to .

There, though it’s unclear how, he managed to board the high-security , and once he got to Pakistan, he was detained because he had neither a visa nor any documents to prove who he was.

It’s hard to believe how smoothly things were going for him back in 2004. A bright student, Bhavesh had graduated from NIIT and landed himself a decent job. He lived with his family in , and like many parents of 24-year-old boys, his were on the look-out for a suitable bride.

Then his father lost a prolonged battle against cancer. “He was very close to his father, and after his death he went into depression,” Hansa told Mirror. “He had not only lost his father but a friend as well. After that he also lost his job. The family fell into financial trouble and he blamed himself for not being able to look after us.”

Hansa had gone to her maternal home to perform some rituals when the next tragedy struck.

She got a call from her neighbours saying that Bhavesh had not returned home for a few weeks. Hansa returned immediately and when she couldn’t find him anywhere, registered a missing complaint with the police. “Some people told me he must’ve died or committed suicide, others said he had run away. I didn’t know what to do so I decided to wait,” she said.

She waited four years before she heard about her son: the good news was Bhavesh was alive; the bad news that he was in jail in Pakistan, and that getting him back would not be easy.

“In October 2008, officers from the Mumbai Police special branch came looking for me. They told me my son was being held in Kot Lakpath jail in Lahore,” Hansa said. “The cops also told me that he was mentally unstable, and that all he did was mutter the name of his college and call out for his mother. The police got my address from his college records,” Hansa said.

With this information in hand, she started the long battle to get her son released. She wrote to the Home Ministry and to the Ministry of External Affairs pleading with them to get her son back.

A few months later, there came another glimmer of hope. In July 2009, she got a letter from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan confirming that her son was indeed lodged in one of their jails.

The letter also stated that a team from the High Commission had met him, and that they had confirmed his nationality status to the government of Pakistan. The letter said that they were in touch with the Pakistani government and were seeking Bhavesh’s release and repatriation to at the earliest.

Once again, Hansa was left with nothing else to do but wait; this time, for another two-and-a-half years (more painful, considering she knew where her son was but could do nothing to help him).

Out of the blue, on February 24 this year, she got a call – not from a police station or an embassy, as she had been expecting. It was from a man called Ram Rajji, Bhavesh’s fellow prisoner who had returned to India bearing a letter from her son.

Unlike Bhavesh, Rajji was the victim of a con. In 2004, an agent in Amritsar had told him he had arranged a job for him in Lahore, and that he would meet his point-of-contact when he reached that city. There was no one waiting for him and Rajji found himself in jail. He was released in February this year as part of a group of 19 Indian who were sent back home.

When contacted Rajji, he said that Bhavesh seldom spoke about his home or his family. “For many years, he was very quiet. He used to break into tears when he remembered things from his past but at most times he recalled nothing. On the day I was getting released, he pushed a piece of paper in my hand and told me to give it to his mother. He also asked me to click a photograph of his and show it to his mother as proof that he was alive.”

Rajji was taken aback, mainly because of how quiet Bhavesh had been until then. “But I was moved by his sudden emotional outburst. I promised him that I would personally meet his mother and tell her that her son was alive.”

After receiving the letter, Hansa once again approached the authorities. Vile Parle (East) MLA Krishna Hegde, who is helping Hansa out, said, “I have written to the Ministry of External affairs explaining the situation. We are now waiting for their reply.”

For Hansa, the letter has brought with it fresh strength to fight. “For the first time in eight years my son remembered me. He scribbled his address on a piece of paper, he gave Rajji a message for me.”

And what was the message? “He said he wants to come back home.”

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