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Agriculture Minister Raghavji Patel Welcomes 198 Indian Fishermen Released From Pak Jail

Pakistan has freed as many as 198 Indian fishermen, 184 of them from Gujarat, five from Maharashtra, four from the UT of Diu, three from Andhra Pradesh, and two from Uttar Pradesh, published an English news portal.

Shivangi Rai
Pakistan has freed as many as 198 Indian fishermen. (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash)
Pakistan has freed as many as 198 Indian fishermen. (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash)

The initial group of 198 fishermen, who were freed from a Pakistani jail last Thursday, arrived at Gujarat's Vadodara railway station early Monday i.e. May 15. According to an English news portal, State Agriculture Minister Raghavji Patel and other local leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were present to receive them.

On Friday, these fishermen were handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border near Amritsar in Punjab.

They reached Vadodara, aboard the Amritsar-Kochuveli Express train from Amritsar, Punjab, at around 5 am on Monday. After deboarding from the two specially reserved train coaches, the fishermen were greeted with garlands by Patel, local BJP MLA Keyur Rokadia, Vadodara Collector Atul Gor, BJP leader Vijay Shah, and fisheries commissioner Nitin Sangwan, among others.

According to an official release from the Gujarat government, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Agriculture Minister Raghavji Patel, and Union Minister Parsottam Rupala remained in constant contact with the Central Government to secure the release of these Gujarati fishermen.

Out of the 198 released fishermen, 184 are from Gujarat, five are from Maharashtra, four are from the UT of Diu, three are from Andhra Pradesh, and two are from Uttar Pradesh. Among the Gujarat fishermen, 152 are from Gir Somnath district, 22 are from Devbhumi Dwarka district, five are from Porbandar, and one each is from Junagadh, Jamnagar, Valsad, Kutch, and Navsari, as stated in the government release.

Originally, on May 11, a total of 199 fishermen and one civilian prisoner were supposed to be released from Landi jail in Karachi, Pakistan. However, the civilian prisoner and a fisherman from Gujarat passed away on May 6 and May 8, respectively.

This marks the first batch of fishermen to be released and sent from Pakistan in approximately a year. Pakistan had previously released a group of 20 fishermen in June of the previous year.

From Vadodara, the fishermen boarded four buses bound for Veraval, with arrangements made by the Gujarat fisheries department. The buses will stop at Kidivav village in Gir Somnath district for police verification. Subsequently, they will proceed to Veraval town, where they will be handed over to the owners of the fishing boats they were working on when captured by Pakistan. The fishermen are expected to reunite with their families on Monday evening.

Pakistan has decided to release 499 out of 654 Indian fishermen held in its prisons. The 198 fishermen who arrived in Gujarat on Monday constitute the first of three batches to be released. The second and third batches, comprising 100 fishermen each are scheduled for release on June 2 and July 3 respectively.

India and Pakistan have disagreements concerning the alignment of the notional International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Arabian Sea. Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency apprehends several hundred Indian fishermen each year for alleged violations of its territorial waters. Similarly, Indian agencies also detain several dozen Pakistani fishermen annually for allegedly crossing over to the Indian side of the IMBL.

As of January 1, this year, Pakistan held 654 Indian fishermen and 51 Indian civilians in custody. Likewise, there were 99 Pakistani fishermen and 339 Pakistani civilians in Indian custody.

As per Jatin Desai, former general secretary of the Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), 631 out of the 654 Indian fishermen had completed their prison terms by April, and their nationalities have been verified too. A majority of Pakistani fishermen have also completed their punishment in Indian jails.

Following Pakistan's decision to release 499 Indian fishermen, Desai called for the release of Pakistani fishermen being held in its prisons as India should also reciprocate by releasing the fishermen.

Desai and other Indian activists, as well as their Pakistani counterparts, have long been demanding a no-arrest rule for fishermen who violate territorial seas.

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