After Sosa’s death, families of other fishermen in Pak prisons live in fear and grief
DURING THE LAST rites of Ramesh Sosa, the fisherman who died in a Pakistani prison and whose remains were repatriated 42 days later, took place in his native village of Nanavada in Gir Somnath, Rasila Sosa, a distant relative of Ramesh, was stood at the door of her house facing the road, seemingly lost in thought.
She had spent the day styling her five daughters, cleaning up the grain and, in between, trying to get updates on Ramesh. Mansing, the middle-aged woman’s husband, was among the group of fishermen captured by Pakistan on the same day as Ramesh and has been in prison ever since.
In another part of the village, Rekha, her elderly mother-in-law Prema and the women in the neighborhood were in despair. “The tension is too high to bear. I don’t understand why we should be forced to stay in prison even after serving our sentence, ”says an illiterate Rekha whose husband Ramsinh was captain of the trawler Sadhna. Ramesh and four other fishermen aboard the vessel when it was apprehended by Pakistan in May 2019.
Emotions were running high in at least 10 other Nanavada families whose members are held in Pakistani prisons after being arrested by Pakistan for allegedly crossing the Pakistani side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), the fictitious maritime border line. to the Arabian Sea whose alignment dispute both India and Pakistan, while fishing. News of Ramesh’s death began to circulate in the village days after the 36-year-old fisherman died in a Karachi prison on March 26 this year.
But Ramesh’s family members, including Rasila, went to great lengths to prevent him from reaching Ramesh’s wife, Ranjan and their three children, as they did not know when Ramesh’s remains would be repatriated. .
Ratandas Makwana, a fisherman from Nanavada died in a Pakistani prison on February 8, 2016, but his body was returned to his family on April 14 of the same year. Vagha Chauhan, a fisherman from the village of Dandi in the nearby town of Una taluka died in a Pakistani prison on December 22, 2015, but his remains were not repatriated until April 2016.
After officers from the Gujarat Fisheries Department visited Ramesh’s home on April 8 this year to verify his nationality, Ranjan went to Rasila’s home. “She came running and asked why they wanted documents from her husband… I had to lie to her that it was for the release of Ramesh and that they had also gathered documents from my husband,” Rasila said. . Rasila and Rekha say their husbands finished their prison terms almost two years ago.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is raging and who would not worry about their loved ones during such times. If Pakistan allows them to board their boats, they will return to Gujarat and the two governments will not bother to organize their transport, ”said Rasila, 42.
The government of Gujarat provides ex gratia 9,000 rupees per month to relatives of fishermen caught by Pakistan for the first time. But Rasila has no right for that because Mansing was also captured in 2015. “He was released after 11 months. After that, he stopped fishing for three years. But as there was little other work and we had to finance the education of our children, he decided to go back to sea… luckily, he was caught on his maiden voyage ”, rue Rasila.
Their eldest daughter, Tejal (26), a Sanskrit graduate, started working in a ceramics factory in Morbi. Their four other daughters and their son Sond Deep (17) are studying. “What is the point of organizing the repatriation of bodies,” wonders Mansing’s younger brother, who runs a general store in the village.
Balu Sosa, the community leader who runs an NGO – Samudra Shramik Surasksha Sangh, says land ownership in Nanavada is limited and other jobs are hard to find, fishing is lucrative for its 3,000 residents.
Chirag, Ramsinh’s 20-year-old son who joined the Indian army last year, says: “Yes, the village has benefited financially. But families have also suffered.
His mother agrees. “Fishing turns out to be risky, in fact the riskiest of all,” she said, wondering, “How my husband would cope in these times of illness and death. How do you know when they’ve even stopped delivering letters? Chirag says his family received Ramsinh’s last letter in July of last year. While Ramsinh was first captured in 2019, his two older brothers, Mahesh and Soma, were arrested by Pakistan in 1993 and subsequently released. Soma is now a farmer while Mahesh is still a fisherman.