Straying into misery

JAMMU AUG. 10. It is common for residents living on either side of the border to cross over to the other side, in most cases inadvertently. However, because of the strained relations between India and Pakistan those who cross over undergo misery as they are subjected to intensive rounds of interrogation. On both sides, the security agencies make sure that no one from the other side crosses over in the disguise of border residents.

Sometimes it takes years for the repatriation of innocent individuals, as the procedure is long and bureaucratic. For instance, two Pakistani youths are still locked up in the Kot Bhalwal jail as even one-and-a-half-years after they strayed into the RS Pura sector they are still to be repatriated.

But the story of 13-year-old Mohammad Shakeel is different as he strayed intentionally into Indian territory twice. The first time the Border Security Force jawans spotted him — a resident of Sayeedpur area of Sialkot district of Pakistan some months ago — when he crossed over at NS Pura in Akhnoor sector. He was handed over to the Pakistani Rangers in the presence of his parents on July 10 at a flag meeting in Suchetgarh sector. But less than a month after his return, the boy strayed again into Indian territory on August 9. The BSF this time handed over the boy to police to interrogate and find out the reasons for his frequent crossing over in a sector that is heavily mined.When the BSF officials quizzed the boy, he gave the same answers as the first time. Mohammad Shakeel is quoted to have said: "My parents are forcing me to become a labourer, but I want to study."

Annoyed with his parents he crossed over to escape their scolding. A senior BSF official said that they were convinced about the innocence of the boy and would hand him over after the police completed their formalities.

But, this time Shakeel's parents would be told to be sensitive to the aspirations of the boy and not pressure him to become a labourer, the officer said.