Patna, Nov 26 (IANS) An elderly woman in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district is waiting for her son, who was lodged in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, for nearly two decades now.
A letter issued by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad said that Sitaram Jha was released from jail on August 31, 2004, but a letter dated November 23, 2022 from the Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB), Amritsar, said that he was not released from the jail in Lahore.
Mukesh Kumar, a relative of Sitaram Jha, told IANS: “The documents we have received so far are contradictory. I have been in touch with the Amritser administration since 2007, but they have not given any convincing reply to me.”
“Sitaram Jha was a three-wheeler driver in Bhagalpur district who came under debt after purchasing the vehicle. As he was unable to pay the instalments, the bank seized his three-wheeler. Sitaram, at the age 27, went to Amritser to earn his livelihood in 1997. Initially, he was in contact with us for six to seven months. He also sent money to his wife and mother. Then he disappeared from there,” Kumar said.
“In 2002, a news article was published in an Amritsar daily wherein the photograph of Sitaram Jha was printed as a prisoner in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. The article mentioned that the Pakistan government wants to release Indian inmates. Following that development, a verification was done by the special branch of Bihar Police wherein we identified him. We verified that Sitaram Jha was a native of Barari village in Bhagalpur district. We were expecting that Sitaram would be released soon,” Kumar added.
“We kept on waiting for the release of Sitaram Jha. Since the verification of Sitaram Jha was completed way back in 2002, I filed an RTI in 2007 regarding his release. Following the RTI, it was revealed that Sitaram was released on August 31, 2004 at the Wagah border and handed over to the Amritsar administration.
“The immigration department also attached the letter of 2004 issued by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. When I contacted the BSF IG at Wagha border, he revealed that the name of Sitaram Jha was mentioned in 10th position in the list of 36 inmates whom the Pakistan authorities handed over to the BSF. As his mental condition was not stable, he was handed over to the Amritser administration,” Kumar claimed.
“I also wrote to the PMO, Home Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry. The PMO sent the letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar in 2007. Initially, the DC responded to my calls and assured me of tracing the whereabouts of Sitaram. But later he refused to reply to my calls,” Kumar said.
“My point is why the authorities did not inform us in advance so that we could go to Wagah border to receive him. We didn’t know about his release till the time I filed the RTI in 2007,” he said.
“In the list of 36 inmates released by the Pakistani authorities in 2004, four others belonged to Bhihar apart from Sitaram. I went to the house of all of them, but none of them had returned. On November 23, the letter issued by Amritsar SSB clearly mentions that Sitaram was not released from jail,” Kumar said.
“I appeal to PM Narendra Modi to take some action in this matter so that we could know the actual status of Sitaram,” he said.