The body of Rambahi Vala, a Gujarat fisherman who was jailed in Karachi when his trawler crossed into Pakistani waters and later died of illness, was brought to Mumbai on Monday.
His body was given to Gujarat Fisheries authorities, and then taken to his family in Gujarat in an ambulance, nearly 42 days after his demise. It was a long wait for Mr. Vala’s family, who had appealed to authorities that they wanted to perform his last rites in Gujarat.
Mr. Vala, who hailed from Junagadh district in Gujarat, was employed on a trawler called Rita Sagar. Last November, the boat was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities, and the fishermen were taken to Karachi jail.
This June, Pakistan freed 315 fishermen languishing in its jail. However, Mr. Vala passed away a month before, on May 28. His post-mortem report states that he had hepatitis and suffered a heart attack. Mr. Vala was undergoing treatment at the Karachi civil hospital, where he was admitted for 20 days.
His family, however, rejected the claims of illness by Pakistan. “He had no illness, no ailment. We want the Indian government to do a post-mortem and ascertain his cause of death,” Narayanbhai Lakhnotra, Mr. Vala’s relative, told The Hindu on the phone from Gujarat.
Mr. Vala is survived by his wife and three sons. The family ekes out a living through farm labour.
Mr. Lakhnotra said that in his six months of captivity, Mr. Vala had called home thrice. “The first time was to tell us he had been arrested. Later, he enquired about us and the work on the fields. He has been a fisherman the past three years. Before that he did farming,” he said.
Two of Mr. Vala’s fellow fishermen, who were also arrested, have been released.
The family has been getting compensation from the Gujarat government after Mr. Vala’s arrest. However, that help is soon to dry out. J.K. Rathod from the Gujarat Fisheries department told The Hindu, “The government has been giving the family Rs. 50 a day since his arrest. But now, until compensation is announced, this aid will stop.”
Mr. Rathod said boats often can’t find their way at night and are impounded by Pakistani officials. “They take the boats and send the crew home, after detaining a few of them. Around 153 fishermen from Gujarat are still in Pakistan. One of them is 19 years old. He was to be released along with the 315 fishermen, but he was diagnosed with water in his brain and his release was stopped.”
A similar situation is prevalent on this side of the border as well. In the first week of September 2010, Ibrahim Mallah, a Pakistani fisherman, died in Bhuj. His family in Pakistan, too, demanded his body, but after 20 days, India buried him in India.