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78 Indian prisoners

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Pakistan, in a gesture of goodwill, had given over the 78 Indian prisoners to the Border Security Force (BSF) at Wagah border, on July 10. Seventy-seven fishermen and a man from Bihar, who were detained in a jail in Karachi, were released and handed back to India after being discharged by Pakistan.

They traversed to India through the land travel route on the premise of Emergency Travel Certificates which can only be issued by the Indian High Commission which is based in Islamabad.

The fishermen were captured a year ago, in May, when their vessels entered Pakistan’s territory in the Arabian Sea where they were arrested by the coast guards of Pakistan.

According to the Indian authorities posted on the Wagah border, instantly after their repatriation, a group of Indian doctors directed a therapeutic examination of the captives. It was apparently a very emotional moment in the homecoming for the captives, because as soon as they crossed the border over to India, they bowed their heads in prayer and kissed the Indian soil.

The fishermen’s appearances, in any case, deceived nervousness when they discussed their future with the authorities, as their boats are still in custody under Pakistan’s authority.

The cost of a boat differs from Rs 3-10 lakh, contingent upon its size and quality. They fishermen, most of them poor, were already debt-ridden, as they had purchased the boats after borrowing hefty sums of money from the banks. Now with their tool of livelihood lost to them, they would have no chances of getting them back. Their argument for wandering into Pakistani waters was that it is hard to recognize the regional waters amid fishing.

Fishermen are often captured along with their vessels by both the Indian and Pakistani coast guards as the maritime border in the Arabian Sea is inadequately characterized and the vessels do not have the technology required to find their exact location.