Seventy-seven Indian fishermen and a person from Bihar, who was imprisoned in a Karachi jail, returned to India after being released by Pakistan. Pakistan, in a goodwill gesture, yesterday handed over the 78 prisoners to the Border Security Force (BSF) at a joint check post at Attari/Wagah border. They crossed over to India through the land transit route on the basis of Emergency Travel Certificates issued by the Indian High Commission based at Islamabad. The Indian fishermen were arrested in May last year when their boats entered Pakistan’s waters in an area of the Arabian Sea where they were caught by the coast guards. Immediately after their repatriation, a team of Indian doctors conducted their medical examination, officials posted at Attari Border on the Indian side said yesterday.
It was an emotional homecoming for the group, as the moment they crossed over to India, they bowed their heads and kissed the Indian soil. The fishermen’s faces, however, betrayed anxiety when they talked about their future as their boats are still in Pakistan’s custody. The cost of a boat varies from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, depending on its size and quality. Most fishermen said they were already debt-ridden before their arrest as boats were purchased after obtaining a loan and now they would be rendered jobless.
They said it was difficult to identify the territorial waters during fishing in the Arabian sea. Fishermen are frequently arrested along with their boats by both India and Pakistan as the maritime border in the Arabian Sea is poorly defined and the boats lack the technology needed to ascertain their precise location.