Encouraged by the success of two other initiatives earlier this year, a 33-year-old social worker in Bhopal, India, has started a fresh campaign on social networking sites to free Jitendra Arjunwar of Madhya Pradesh, who has been imprisoned in Pakistan for over four years.
Pakistan Rangers arrested Arjunwar in August 2013 after he reportedly dug his way through the barbed wire on the international border in Munabao, Rajasthan, and entered Khokhrapar in Pakistan. Khokhrapar police officials charged him under the Foreigner’s Act.
Campaigner Syed Abid Hussain, who is also an interior designer has started the hashtag #Helpjitendra on Twitter to raise awareness about Arjunwar and reunite him with his ailing mother and siblings.
His family says Arunjwar has sickle cell anaemia, a debilitating blood disease for which he requires regular transfusions.
— Abid Hussain Syed (@Aapka_abid) October 23, 2017
Jitendra initially ran away from home in Barghat village in 2002 after his father Ishwar Prasad, a small-time vendor, shouted at him, according to his younger brother.
His mother filed a complaint at Barghat police station about her missing son. A few months after his disappearance, Prasad, an alcoholic, hanged himself.
Seven years down the road, unable to locate the lad, the police closed the case in 2009.
Jatindra Arjunwar unexpectedly returned home in 2012. His family members said he did not reveal where he lived after running away.
TOI investigations reveal that Arjunwar went to Mumbai. He was part of the Bombay Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) street children’s programme till 2012. His resume listed his postal address as: Lions Club of Juhu Beach centre, Santacruz West, Mumbai.
YMCA project officials told TOI that Jitendra Arjunwar, 21, is suffering from a chronic ailment that required regular blood transfusion, was being treated at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Mumbai. Lions Club, Child Line and YMCA were paying his medical bills.
In 2012, Arjunwar told YMCA officials that he needed to mobilise Rs 9 lakh to undergo bone-marrow surgery. KEM hospital has his complete medical history.
Five months before being arrested in Pakistan, he had uploaded his resume from Mumbai on a web portal, citing an experience of six years of driving. He was seeking full-time or a part-time employment as a ‘driver’ with Mumbai as preferred location.
He went missing again in 2013, travelling 35 km unchecked inside Pakistan, before being arrested a few kilometres from Sindh Cantonment. He was said to be 16 years old and lodged in the juvenile jail, but his age is not confirmed.
His family has not heard from him for over four years now.
TOI has tracked Pakistan’s investigations into Arjunwar’s case and subsequent trials in the court of additional sessions judge in Umerkot district, Sindh, where the young Indian was charge-sheeted under Section 14 of Foreigners Act.
Documents accessed by TOI reveals that the Umerkot judge sentenced him to one-year’s rigorous imprisonment on April 5, 2014, and directed the Pakistan government to deport him to India after he had served his sentence. The court had also asked Pakistan government to keep track of his jail period. According to the order, Arjunwar was to be in jail till August 12, 2014, and should have been released after that.
The judge had announced in court that the accused had “remained undertrial prisoner from August 12, 2013, till today. This period should be counted towards his sentence. The benefit of Section 382-B CrPC is also extended to him. Accused is a foreigner and should be deported from Pakistan to India after serving sentence”.
Pakistan lawyer and human rights defender Mohammad Ali Palh, who provided him legal aid, the Indian embassy and his family, are aware of his whereabouts.
There were reports that Arjunwar would be released along with 150 Indian prisoners in May 2015 as a goodwill gesture after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge. However, his name was not on list of prisoners repatriated at Wagah border at the time.
“I am surprised that his name does not figure among list of Indian prisoners in Pakistan, although he was arrested and convicted,” Hussain told TOI. Hussain had also campaigned for Ramzan (a Pakistani boy in Bhopal) and Sunil Uikey of Balaghat to reunite them with their parents.
On 27 November 2015 there were reports that 40 more Indian prisoners from Karachi jail were being released, Arjunwar’s family was hopeful of his return, but this too was a false alarm.
P. Naveen reports for Times News Network (TNN) on environment, wildlife, crime, conflict, terrorism, and development.