At 62, an Indian becomes an Indian

At 62, an Indian becomes an Indian

C Ibrahim (courtesy Malayala Manorama)

In June 2003, the poor fish vendor became the only Keralite among several Indians holding a Pakistani passport to be taken up to the Wagah border to be deported. Luckily for him, the move did not materialise.

“The Indian emigration and Pakistani authorities refused to consider me as a Pakistani because I had no document with me to prove it,” Ibrahim, 62, told Deccan Herald over the phone from his house at Vellikulangara near Vatakara in Kozhikode. He had by then lost even the Pakistani passport with which he had entered the country at Mumbai.

Now, after seven years, a local court in Kerala has also come to the conclusion that Ibrahim is very much an Indian. The First Class Judicial magistrate court at Vatakara said that the prosecution had failed to prove that Ibrahim was a Pakistani overstaying in the country. In fact, Ibrahim’s lawyer Ajay Ramath managed to secure several documents to prove that his client was an Indian.

These included certificates from his school, the Madapally fisheries technical school, voters’ list of the Eramala grama panchayat and a ration card in which his names figured. So, why was Ibrahim harassed for so long as a Pakistani if he was very much an Indian?
The seeds of his troubles were sown way back in 1969 when Ibrahim like many other youths of his time set off from Mumbai to Dubai by ship in search of a job.

As destiny would have it, he ended up in Karachi instead of Dubai, thanks to visa racketeers who cheated many novices like him. He did odd jobs in the port city for 11 years before managing to secure a Pakistani passport to return home, which was stamped in Mumbai upon entry. If that had happened in 1980, Ibrahim's travails began only in 2003 when the Home Ministry under the NDA Government launched a drive to find overstaying foreign nationals and deport them.

Wagah trip

Ibrahim remembers vividly the scene when he was unceremoniously taken to the Edachery police station and the police asked him just one question: How long have you been staying in your house at Vellikulangara. Ibrahim recalls overhearing the policemen saying that he was a “Pakistani spy”. At first, he was lodged in the station itself for 45 days and then moved to the Vatakara sub jail for 10 days.

The came the D-day “when the SP called me and asked me to call home and tell my family that I was going back,” recalls Ibrahim. A sub-inspector and three police constables accompanied him to Wagah and Ibrahim believed that he may have seen his wife Nabeesa and daughters for the last time. 

The only relief for him then was that his hands were not tied up or chained like a criminal. However, at the Attari military check post, Indian emigration authorities refused to execute the deportation as there was no record to prove that he was a Pakistani citizen.
He did not possess a Pakistan passport nor an emergency emigration certificate issued by the Pakistan Embassy. The sub-inspector then decided that there was no other way but to go back.

‘Kill me, now’

Though he returned to Kerala, it was too much for Ibrahim to even think that he carried the label of a Pakistani. His tough exterior crumbled before the media and he broke down. “Kill me now if I am an anti-national. Please don’t prolong this ordeal,” he cried. Following an uproar in Parliament over the issue and the Pakistani High Commission clarifying that Ibrahim was not a citizen of his country, Ibrahim was given bail.

“Though he got bail after he returned from Wagah, the trial of the case began in 2005 as he had entered the country on a Pakistani passport as per records,” said Ajay. Interestingly, about 350-odd elderly people in north Kerala were in a similar predicament for many years until the Home Ministry issued an order a couple of months ago seeking to end the harassment. The order which was promulgated in a gazette has also promised them citizenship in due course.

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