Mystery surrounds Indian man who spent 36 years in Pakistan jail

Gajanand Sharma wandered across the Indian border into Pakistan in 1982. He was arrested and spent the next ...

Posted: Aug 15, 2018 2:22 PM
Updated: Aug 15, 2018 2:22 PM

Gajanand Sharma wandered across the Indian border into Pakistan in 1982. He was arrested and spent the next 36 years in prison.

How he ended up in a Pakistani jail, and why the Indian government appeared to be unaware of his existence, remains a mystery. But this week, he finally went home.

Asia

Continents and regions

India

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Pakistan

South Asia

International relations

International relations and national security

Territorial and national borders

Corrections system

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Prisons and jails

"I am very troubled. I can't remember anything," he told CNN from a car as he arrived back in India.

Gajanand said he doesn't remember much of what happened on that day, when he left his home in the city of Jaipur in west India's Rajasthan with a few friends. But he doesn't know what became of them, or how he ended up in prison in Karachi for almost four decades.

His family had given him up for dead until three months ago, when they received a letter inquiring about the citizenship status of one Gajanand Sharma.

"He went missing in 1982. He just left the home and did not come back," said Mukesh Sharma, Gajanand's 48-year-old son, who was 12 years old when his father disappeared.

The family eventually got in touch with Ramcharan Bohra, a member of the Indian Parliament, who reached out to senior officials in the government in an attempt to locate Gajanand and bring him home.

Bohra was able to get hold of V.K. Singh, a junior foreign minister in Modi's government who set the ball rolling for Gajanand's repatriation.

"We don't know how both sides did not know that he was in prison for the past 36 years," Bohra said.

Border trouble

India and Pakistan have argued over their border for 71 years, after Pakistan split from India after the country's independence in 1947. After partition, a bloody and violent migration took place, with a majority of Muslims moving to Pakistan and Hindus relocating to India.

The two countries have fought three wars and innumerable skirmishes in the decades since, and hundreds of civilians have been arrested for mistakenly crossing the disputed land and water borders.

Every six months, both countries exchange a list of prisoners in their custody. According to Indian authorities, as of last month, Pakistan said it had 418 fishermen and 53 other civilians believed to be Indians in its custody.

For its part, India is holding 108 fishermen and 249 other Pakistani civilians, according to the country's foreign ministry.

Since 2015, Pakistan has released 1,528 prisoners, 279 of whom have been repatriated to India.

Welcome home

Gajanand Sharma joined the list of those repatriated this week, even as questions remain over his imprisonment.

On 3 p.m. Monday, Gajanand joined 28 other Indian prisoners crossing the border between Pakistan and India, where he was greeted by Sahdev Sharma, president of the Punjab unit of Vipra Foundation.

Sahdev put a garland of orange flowers around Gajanand's neck and gave him sweets made from chickpea flour.

Dressed in a traditional Indian long white tunic and trousers, with an orange scarf around his neck, Gajanand finally began the 700 kilometer (435 mile) journey from the border point to his village in Rajasthan.

"We got him cleared from the Red Cross Society and then we took him to a temple nearby -- to get him blessings," Sahadev told CNN.

Family reunion

Gajanand did not recognize his wife at first when he arrived in town Tuesday, where around 1,000 people had gathered to welcome him home.

His face lit up however when someone told him the woman in front of him was his wife.

"When he met everyone there, he did not shed any tears. He was just smiling but there was a not one family member whose eyes were not wet at the time," said Sahdev.

Firecrackers were set off in the streets and traditional Indian snacks were distributed. People piled into a line of cars and the entire procession headed for Gajanand's family home to watch him cross the threshold after nearly four decades away.

The mystery of Gajanand's disappearance may never be solved. His family does not have the resources to pursue an independent investigation, and short of his memory returning, they may never know what happened that day.

"He does not remember how he got there," said Bohra, the lawmaker. "We are not thinking of pursuing it. If something happens, we will see. I am totally happy with the result that he came back to his family before (India's) independence day."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 318894

Reported Deaths: 5561
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion43391855
Lake27599462
Allen18363299
Elkhart17474226
St. Joseph17071234
Hamilton13376169
Vanderburgh9839121
Tippecanoe880629
Porter844886
Johnson6556169
Hendricks6267158
Vigo618187
Monroe542850
Clark522877
Madison5153122
Delaware5014103
LaPorte474695
Kosciusko468540
Howard357977
Warrick329872
Floyd324978
Bartholomew323563
Wayne318074
Marshall308146
Cass302631
Grant282050
Noble261546
Hancock260355
Henry252837
Boone248754
Dubois242931
Dearborn222631
Jackson222534
Morgan215543
Knox189720
Shelby189556
Gibson189426
Clinton182121
DeKalb181632
Lawrence179748
Adams171022
Wabash168121
Miami166614
Daviess160144
Steuben150713
Fayette150034
Jasper147413
Montgomery146627
Harrison145524
LaGrange145031
Whitley140814
Ripley138515
Huntington130910
Decatur128243
Wells127930
Putnam127828
White127522
Clay126523
Randolph126121
Posey124116
Jefferson122916
Scott112320
Greene104653
Jay100713
Sullivan99216
Starke94021
Jennings88714
Fulton86419
Spencer8588
Perry83721
Fountain8078
Washington7837
Franklin71327
Carroll69613
Orange69028
Vermillion6444
Owen6317
Tipton58927
Parke5886
Newton56912
Rush5658
Blackford54012
Pike51619
Pulaski41115
Martin3645
Benton3553
Brown3514
Crawford3031
Union2752
Switzerland2605
Warren2542
Ohio2337
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 38°
Angola
39° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 36°
Huntington
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 37°
Decatur
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 41°
Van Wert
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 41°
Mostly Cloudy Black Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events