His citizenship questioned, Bihar man spends 8 years in jail

His citizenship questioned, Bihar man spends 8 years in jail

Wasil Khan flanked by his sister Mohazra Khatoon and brother-in-law Shahid Raza Khan after his release from Amritsar jail.

After eight years of incarceration in various jails of Punjab, Khan walked a free man from the Amritsar Central jail last week. He was lost in reverie of the lost years of his productive life - all because the authorities had thus far refused to believe or had intentionally ignored his pleas that he was an Indian citizen hailing from Nakardeyi village in East Champaran district of Bihar. For unexplained reasons, his identity was manipulated by the security agencies in Punjab to show him a Pakistani citizen, hailing from Karachi who had infiltrated into the Indian territory in the Gurdaspur sector of the Indo-Pak border in 2002.

His release from the jail lat week was a huge stroke of luck, ironically initiated
after the visit to the jail by a delegation from Pakistan’s embassy for a counselling session with 52 Pakistani prisoners with whom Khan had been incarcerated. “They asked me from where I hailed from in Pakistan, I said I am an Indian,” says Khan, speaking with Deccan Herald from his native village. An inquiry followed and after which his sister and brother-in-law met the Amritsar Deputy Commissioner with proof of his voter’s identity card and school certificate from Bihar.  “I am very happy. Finally, they realised what I had been telling them for eight years that I am an Indian,” says Khan. However, Khan’s happiness after release from a protracted drudgery in the labyrinths of Punjab’s jail was soon met with his reality of the present day.

His parents and both his brothers died during his incarceration. Tragically, Khan knew nothing about this till he went back. His family members were unaware about his whereabouts all these years as he languished in Punjab jails. He has five sisters.
“It is a shattering experience coming back to the village. My parents and brothers died. Our house is totally dilapidated.

I do not know where to start from. I pray to the God that nobody should go through what I have gone through,” he says pensively. Friends and neighbours gave him a rousing reception on his return.

Back in the summer of 2002, Khan was visiting Punajb as a part of a routine of seasonal migration of labour from impoverished Bihar to work in verdant farms of one of India’s most prosperous states when he was picked up by the police. The security agencies alleged at the time that he had failed to explain his presence near the Indo-Pak border.

For the next eight years, Khan told anybody who bothered to ask him that he was an Indian but the authorities were determined to prove he was a Pakistani.  In all, 11 cases were registered against him, seven of them relating to murder.

“One fine morning while on being taken to Ludhiana, I was given a kurta and pyjama to wear by the policemen. They took me to the court and branded me a Pakistani citizen. My fate was sealed,” says Khan adding he felt totally helpless. He went through torture and hallucinations during his stay in jails in Nabha, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur and Amritsar, which nearly broke his will to live. “I used to think what I have done to deserve this from the state, the very country I was born in,” he says.

While the district and police authorities in Amritsar refuse to come on record about the blunder, Khan turns philosophical, “God bless my tormentors.” His brother-in-law, Shahid Raza Khan, who is a lawyer practising at Gopalganj district court,  is more forthcoming. “It is a fit case for human rights agencies in the country,” he said. Asked if he would sue the Punjab government, Wasil Khan says, “I do not know what action I should take. If they value human life, it is the duty of the Punjab and the central governments to see if I deserve a compensation.”

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