After spending 20 years in Pakistan jail, Odisha man is set to go home

A tribal man from Odisha who had wandered off the border into Pakistan two decades ago will be going back home this month after staying 20 years in a prison in Lahore.

Forty-five-year-old BirjuKulu of Jangatoli village of Sundargarh district had gone lost from his home almost 24 years ago under peculiar condition. He was assumed to be mentally unstable and was then working in a hotel in Ranchi. However, the family did not file any missing person report with local police and did not bother to go after the matter.

No one is aware of how he reached Pakistan. Yet it looks like somehow he reached Amritsar and from there wandered off the border. Then, he was grabbed by Pakistan authorities and treated as a prisoner of war. 

Man spends 20 years in jail, acquitted by Odisha High Court

Sundargarh’s superintendent of police SagarikaNath reported, “The family did not have any linkage of him till he was handed over to Indian authorities at the border on October 26 as per the usual practice of handing over of such prisoners who are not involved in any criminal activities.”

Further, she narrated that last week she received a call from the ministry of external affairs about Kulu’s release from a jail in Lahore and was asked to get his family address checked as he had given his Sundargarh address to Pakistani authorities.

The Sundargarh police then enquired about Kulu and informed the family that he had “inadvertently” crossed into Pakistan and spent 20 years in Lahore jail on suspicion of being a spy.

Officials said his family had given up all hope of seeing him again. “His parents have died in the meanwhile. Only his sister and uncles are alive. His elder sister was very happy when the district administration officials informed her about Birju’s whereabouts,” said BiswajitMohapatra, an additional district magistrate of Sundargarh.

Kulu’s sister spoke with her brother over a video call. Mohapatra said Kulu is now undergoing treatment at a hospital in Amritsar after testing positive for Covid-19.

“Once he is discharged from the hospital, we would make arrangements to bring him back to his village,” he said.

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