Yudhvir Rana & Bella Jaisinghani, TNN
MUMBAI: Vile Parle resident Hansaben Parmar’s agonizingly long wait for her son finally ended on Thursday. Eight years after Bhavesh strayed across the border, he was repatriated by Pakistani authorities following his release from a Lahore prison.
A software engineer by education, 32-year-old Bhavesh crossed into India in the afternoon through Wagah border, where Hansaben was waiting for him. “Mamma mil gayee,” he exclaimed on embracing his mother. “I am so happy. I came all the way to Attari almost crying.”
Bhavesh is believed to have wandered into Pakistan in 2004 in a mentally disturbed state. That was the year his father passed away from cancer. His long leave of absence from work cost Bhavesh his job with a leading manufacturer of ATM machines.
On Thursday, Bhavesh, attired in a salwar-kameez and a jacket, said he accidentally boarded Samjhauta Express from Amritsar and fainted before reaching Pakistan. It is unclear how he reached Amritsar or got on the train. According to activists, Bhavesh was arrested in 2007 and in 2009 sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Bhavesh said he was treated well in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.
Vile Parle MLA Krishna Hegde, who accompanied Hansaben to Attari, said Bhavesh will be taken to Mumbai on Friday after all formalities are completed.
During the Thursday reunion, Bhavesh’s mother kept breaking down. “These tears are of happiness. I have finally got my son back,” Hansaben said. While she expressed delight at his return, she wished Pakistan had repatriated him immediately after the arrest.
The 57-year-old said Bhavesh’s mental condition worried her and she would get medical exams conducted. “Bhavesh was dedicated to his father’s treatment. But we lost my husband within three months.” Bhavesh disappeared after the death while Hansaben was away at her parents’ place as per local traditions. “I had told my neighbours to take care of Bhavesh. But when I returned I found him missing.” She did not lodge a missing report with the police since she thought he might have gone in search of another job.
Hansaben was clueless about her son’s whereabouts until 2008, when Intelligence Bureau informed her about his presence in Pakistani jail. “We started making efforts to bring him back when we came to know that he was imprisoned in Pakistan,” explained Hansaben. The process was not easy but as time passed immense support poured in for Bhavesh’s release. Britainbased lawyer Jas Uppal reported the case to the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and to others. In July 2012, Pakistani lawyer Awais Sheikh filed Bhavesh’s mercy petition before the country’s president Asif Ali Zardari.
Back in Mumbai, friends and neighbours at Kamla Terrace building in Vile Parle who had helped Hansaben through the ordeal awaited Bhavesh’s return. “I was to travel to Wagah but could not make it,” said activist Jatin Desai.
Tragedy at home
Bhavesh Parmar, a software engineer, lived with his aged parents Hansaben and Kantilal Parmar at Kamla Terrace in Vile Parle He held a mid-level position with one of India’s largest manufacturers of ATMs The young man was left traumatized following the death of his father due to cancer in mid-2004. His prolonged absence from work owing to his father’s illness and then death cost him his job Unable to cope with the double blow, he wandered away from home in a disoriented state.
Odyssey & ordeal
The 24-year-old ended up in Pakistan aboard Samjhauta Express in 2004. He was arrested in 2007 and a case was registered under section 14 of the Foreigners Act In 2009, Bhavesh was given a three-year sentence with a penalty of Rs 5,000 For non-payment of penalty, he was made to undergo further imprisonment of three months His case was placed before Pakistan’s supreme court and Bhavesh was declared an internee on June 2 for three months. The term ended on September 28.
Sparks of hope
Earlier this year, Hansaben received a letter from journalist Neeraj Sharma informing that Bhavesh was in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore Sharma had interviewed a batch of prisoners released at Wagah. One of them, Ram Rajji, passed on a chit of paper on which Bhavesh had scribbled the family’s Mumbai address A friend of Bhavesh telephoned the reporter, who, in turn, put him through to Rajji Hansaben approached local MLA Krishna Hegde in February 2012. The MLA, in turn, sought help from MP Priya Dutt. The chain led to external affairs minister S M Krishna and the Indian High Commission in Pakistan Soon, activists across the UK, Pakistan and India reached out to help In Pakistan, lawyer Awais Sheikh represented Bhavesh to secure his release.