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.

Confirmed Cases: 33558

Reported Deaths: 2110
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9616571
Lake3538185
Cass15897
Allen145168
St. Joseph124834
Elkhart116328
Hendricks116171
Hamilton115693
Johnson1093108
Madison58559
Porter51627
Bartholomew50034
Clark49241
LaPorte42423
Howard39526
Tippecanoe3903
Jackson3791
Delaware37736
Shelby36822
Hancock32728
Floyd31839
Boone30935
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2652
Montgomery23517
White2318
Decatur22431
Clinton2231
Noble21121
Grant20621
Harrison19221
Dubois1923
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16612
Warrick16628
Dearborn16621
Vigo1648
Lawrence15423
Miami1411
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Orange12522
Scott1193
Kosciusko1111
Franklin1098
Ripley1086
Carroll922
Marshall901
Daviess8516
Steuben812
Newton7710
Wayne776
Fayette767
Wabash762
LaGrange712
Jasper651
Washington521
Jay500
Fulton481
Clay471
Rush462
Randolph463
Pulaski460
Jefferson431
Whitley393
Starke363
Sullivan341
Owen341
Brown331
DeKalb331
Perry310
Benton300
Knox290
Wells280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Blackford242
Fountain202
Switzerland200
Spencer191
Parke170
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0164
West Lafayette
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
Kokomo
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 59°
Rensselaer
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Fowler
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Williamsport
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 58°
Crawfordsville
Scattered Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 57°
Frankfort
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 61°
Delphi
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 59°
Monticello
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Logansport
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Cooler, less humid weather ahead by the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events