By Quaid Najmi
Aurangabad, Feb 9 (IANS) A 65-year-old woman who spent 18 years in a Pakistani prison and was sent back to India on Republic Day, died here barely a fortnight after returning to her motherland.
The overjoyed woman – Hasina Begum – was accorded a hero’s welcome by several of her old friends, distant relatives, and even Aurangabad Police officials on her return on January 26.
Early on Tuesday morning, the city was stunned to learn that she suddenly succumbed to a heart attack and breathed her last after enjoying barely 14 days of freedom.
Upon her return, she recounted her travails and how she underwent immense hardships in the Pakistani prison for so many years for no fault of hers.
“I have undergone tremendous hardships all these years. Now I feel as if I am in Heaven. I feel a sense of peace after returning to my country. I was wrongly jailed in Pakistan,” Hasina Begum said briefly of her 18-year-long imprisonment in the neighbouring country.
She expressed her gratitude to the Aurangabad Police for submitting a report to the Pakistan authorities which paved the way for her release and repatriation.
A resident of Rashidpura locality of Aurangabad, she was married to Dilshad Ahmed Shaikh of Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. They were a childless couple. A local social worker said that her husband died a few years ago, when his wife was in the Pakistani jail.
Hasina Begum’s travails began in 2004 when she went to Pakistan to meet her husband’s relatives living in Lahore.
The first of the series of tragedies struck when she lost or misplaced her passport there and also failed to meet anybody from her in-laws’ side who could help her.
Without the passport, Hasina Begum was promptly arrested by the Pakistan police on charges of being a ‘spy’ and dumped in a local jail while cumbersome legal proceedings were launched against her.
Over the years, after she consistently pleaded her innocence, a Pakistan court finally sought a detailed report on her claims from the Indian authorities.
Accordingly, sometime ago, the Aurangabad Police sent the report to Pakistan confirming that Hasina Begum was a resident of Rashidpura under the jurisdiction of the City Chowk Police Station, her husband’s details, her home address and other relevant information.
Convinced by this, the Pakistan court finally ordered her release and repatriation to India and she reached her home town on January 26.
Hoping to start life afresh, a week later Hasina Begum was shattered after learning that her small plot of land in the city, which she had bought in July 2000, had been encroached and usurped by some local goons.
Last week, armed with the old property papers registry and other records, she had met the Aurangabad Police top brass seeking help to secure possession of her plot and the police assured to enquire and do the needful.
A local social worker Mohsin Ahmed said that since Hasina Begum had no known close relatives, several people in the city got together and performed her last rites at a cemetery following the afternoon ‘namaaz’ (prayers) at the Mohammediya Mosque in Rashidpura.
“This is truly shocking. It seems she remained alive for 18 years in the Pakistan jail only to return and peacefully breathe her last at her birthplace,” said India-Pakistan peace activist Jatin Desai.
He said that on January 1, 2021, India handed over a list of 270 Indian fisherfolk and 49 civilians in various Pakistani jails, and Pakistan submitted a list of 263 of its civilians and 77 fishermen held in Indian prisons.
“We have been demanding since long that both countries should allow medical teams to go and check their respective countrymen periodically to ascertain their health and well-being,” Desai said.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)