Jaipur, Aug 15 : For Gajanand Sharma of Jaipur, it was a real Independence Day celebrations after 36 years. He finally came back to his home
last night. His wife, Makhni Devi, who had been happy, finally broke down on seeing her husband, whom she had believed was long dead.
After 36 years in Pakistan’s Lahore Central Jail, he was finally released yesterday and handed over to India via the Attari-Wagah border.
Pakistan released him as a goodwill gesture ahead of its Independence Day on August 14.
Sharma, who is not well physically and seemed confused and dazed trying to identify his own family members from among hordes of people welcoming him with crackers and garlanding him including overzealous media men. His colony in Fateh Ram Ka Tiba in Brahmapuri Colony was agog with his missing tales and ultimate return from Pakistan.
Sharma, a labourer, had wandered into Pakistan 36 years ago when he was just 34. He was supposed to have been put in prison and his punishment was for two months only but due to lack of consular support, he languished in jail for all these years.
He went missing from home in 1982 and his family had no clue that he was alive and in Pakistan jail.
Clad in a Pakistani suit, black chappals and holding his belongings in a white plastic bag, Sharma on Monday sat through the two-and-a-half hours clearance process at customs and immigration check points demurely. His health both physical and mental did not seem very sound.
He was surprised on seeing the banner welcoming him.
Members of Vipra Foundation from Jaipur were waiting at the border with flowers and sweets. “We have come to receive him with honour. It is our responsibility to take him to his house,” said Sahdev Sharma of Vipra Foundation.
At his Jaipur home, his wife Makhni Devi and children wait eagerly for him to return. Although there is still uncertainty when he will be finally home in Jaipur.
This year, the family celebrated Teej with fervor as extended. family, friends and neighbours all gathered on hearing the good news.
Sharma’s son Mukesh was 12 years old when his father went missing. Now he is the father of three children and is 48.
Mukesh says : “We all had thought he was dead. Then on May 7, we were told that he is lodged in a Pakistan jail. Then on May 9, we completed some formalities and it was officially confirmed that he is an Indian citizen and is likely to be released. All these years, we only had his memories and three photographs. “We don’t know anything about his arrival in Jaipur. We were told that he will be back after completing formalities, but it may take a day or two.”
Jaipur MP Ramcharan Bohra, who has been instrumental in bringing back Gajanand says it was only this May, following an inquiry via the External Affairs Ministry, that Jaipur police contacted his family and submitted documents attesting his identity that his release could be secured.
His family is happy that he is now in India but they all are anxiously waiting for his return home.