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34 minors released from Pakistani jails

Source: PTI
August 19, 2008 19:03 IST
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For 34 fishermen, release from a Pakistani prison on the eve of Independence Day came as a pleasant surprise. Pakistani authorities released all of the fishermen who were minor boys, from custody on August 14, the country's Independence Day and handed them over to their Indian counterparts over the Wagah border on August 15.

However, the boys all under 18 years were not aware that they were going to be released and it came as a pleasant surprise for them.

The boys spent three days in Amritsar due to non-availability of train tickets but with intervention from Union Minister of State for Railways Naranbhai Rathwa, they came to Vadodara around midnight on Monday in a special coach attached to the Golden Temple Express.

Of the 34 released, 14 are from Diu, four from Maharashtra and the remaining from various parts of Gujarat. All of them were given gift bags containing a pair of clothing and slippers, a cap and a bar of soap before they left Vadodra.

The arrest, however, does not deter 14-year-old Alpesh Solanki from taking to fishing again because it helps him maintain his family. "The threat of arrest by Pakistani agencies will not prevent us from pursuing our fishing activities in the Arabian sea in the Jalhau port area of Kutch bordering Pakistan," Alpesh told PTI. Working on a fishing boat helps him earn a meager monthly income of Rs 2,000-3,000.

Many of these boys have a desire to study but do not have the finances to buy books and pay school fees."I have learnt English alphabets in the Pakistani jail but will not be able to learn more as I will have to take up fishing to support my family," 15-year-old Vishwas Solanki said.

They were kept in a separate block in the jail after complaints over frequent quarrels with Pakistani boys. However, they claim that they were not ill treated and even allowed to play sometimes. People in Pakistan and a number of NGOs too were very good and a number of them gave sweets on occasions like Diwali and Raksha Bandhan, the boys said.

The boys were told by a court judge in Pakistan that he could not conduct a trial against them because there was no case of illegal straying registered against them. The boys said they followed happenings back home and elsewhere by watching Pakistani news channels.

All of them will be taken to Veraval, a coastal city in Saurashtra, where they will be handed over to their parents.

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