The 14-year-old Pakistani schoolboy, Nauman Arshad, who was detained after he accidentally crossed the international border, finally walked to freedom when the Indian authorities repatriated 64 prisoners on Tuesday evening.
He spent almost 10 months in prison after being apprehended by the Border Security Force (BSF) on January 14 this year.
The Hindu highlighted his plight in April. The Principal Magistrate of the Juvenile Justice Board in Amritsar ordered his release on September 26, after issuing him a warning. No criminal charges were made against him, although police had registered a case under Section 3 of the Indian Passport Act (Entry into India) and the Foreigners' Act at the Gharinda police station of Amritsar district.
He was remanded to detention at the juvenile home in Hoshiarpur district.
Efforts paid off
Nauman's advocate, V.P. Singh Bhatia, had succeeded in drawing the court's attention to the fact that despite “sustained interrogation” the security forces could not recover any incriminating material or document to establish that the boy had crossed the border with “nefarious designs.”
Through subsequent efforts from some rights' groups, the governments of India and Pakistan, Mr. Bhatia established the antecedents of Nauman as an ordinary class nine student at the Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School for Boys in Lahore. His father is a shopkeeper.
While his arrest was labelled a major “capture,” the authorities preferred to keep Nauman's repatriation under the wraps, away from the media spotlight.
Apart from Nauman, 10 Pakistani prisoners from Amritsar, 52 from Gujarat and one from Rajasthan were repatriated through the Attari-Wagah joint check post, about 25 km from Amritsar city.
The 52 prisoners from Gujarat were fishermen who had strayed into the Indian waters, while others had been booked under different sections related to violation of Foreigners' Act, smuggling or espionage. Some of them had completed their prison terms.