Sometime last year, Dadubhai went out to the sea to get fish. Instead of dead fish, his dead body is going to come home from Karachi. We don’t even know when his body is going to come. There are two flights between Karachi and Mumbai every week. Three such flights have landed in Mumbai since Dadubhai died of brain haemorrhage on July 4. The next flight will be a day before this column appears and there is no guarantee his body will come.
Dadubhai had completed his sentence and was awaiting repatriation. His is not the only case of the apathy with which the Indian and Pakistani governments treat each other’s imprisoned fishermen even in death. Last year, it had taken the body of Nawaz Ali 25 days to reach Karachi from Ahmedabad. This was some months after it had taken 45 days for the body of Ramji Bhai Vala to arrive in Mumbai from Karachi.
We aren’t even talking of living fishermen here — people whose occupational desperation could be overlooked by nationalist Indians and Pakistanis, who would rather inflict as much competitive suffering on each other as possible. It seems that even dead bodies need to be punished, be they of fishermen or soldiers.
Patriotic Indians and Pakistanis must congratulate each other for being so smart that they have divided the fishermen of the Arabian Sea with a border on the waters and our coastguards patrol these waters to prevent us from eating each other’s fish. Often the fishermen genuinely don’t know the maritime border, or cross it because of a storm, or because their GPS devices don’t work. Here is a community that must definitely be fishing in the same waters for thousands of years and it has suddenly been asked to recognise which fish is Pakistani and which fish is Indian.
Contrast this apathy with the way Indian and Pakistani governments and media have acted on the matter of some other prisoners. Recently, Sarabjit Singh and Sanaullah Ranjay’s bodies were both brought back in special flights and both given state funerals. Pakistani prisoner Khalil Chishty was taken home in a special flight, too. What is it that makes the fishermen lesser citizens?
The fishermen live on not just our nations’ peripheries literally but also metaphorically. Even though they belong to the right religion on both sides, they are like minorities that the mainstream couldn’t care less about. What does this say about our nationalism, about our obsessions with the borders that define our maps and ourselves? We’re unwilling to be seen even conceding an inch on vexed territorial issues such as Sir Creek, Siachen or Jammu and Kashmir. You would think that this is because we care about “our” people in these borderlands, their homes and livelihoods. But it turns out, we only care about lines on maps. Do you still need any proof that our nationalism is not what it claims to be — it is not about all our people but our elite and their egos. This is evident in not only how we treat fishermen but other borderland natives — the families divided between Rajasthan and Sindh, the Punjabi spies disowned once caught, the people who get killed and see their homes and farms destroyed across the Line of Control. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, we have made an entire state larger than France a frontier outpost of competing Indian and Pakistani nationalism; the inhabitants of that land are our ammunition.
It may seem that Pakistan is more generous to fishermen because it releases far more Indian fishermen. Not really. It’s just that far more Indian fishermen cross the international maritime boundary from the Indian side, because there’s more fish closer to the Indus delta.
There’s also lesser fish on the Gujarat coast thanks to industrial pollution. Shri Narendra Modi would, of course, think industrial development is more important than the livelihood of fishermen.
Activists like Jatin Desai, who have been working on the issue, have a simple solution: why can’t we have a no-arrest policy on fishermen? Why arrest a man who came looking for fish, put him in jail for six months, not release him even after that? Why not just turn him away?
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.
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This is happening due to the pakistani terror conspiracy.
Bravo, Mr Shtidhar.....
I think ModiBhai is doing great job what he did for Gujrat is great he over run the British bearocracy dirt and implemented the good work....
A process should be put in place. It does not matter if the govt of 2 nations regard each other with suspicion. It does not matter if the 2 nations are enemies (even though at individual levels they can be friends). Any decent society would ensure such things do not happen. It seems both nations are indulging in a "tit-for-tat" response. Experts should be brought in and a process put in place to deal with this. When fishermen cross the boundary, the "navy patrol" should just check their I.D cards and if O.K, they should be allowed bo turn back.
Good sense has to start somewhere. I hope it starts from the Indian side.
The difference between India and Pakistan (all else being equal) is that Pakistan is infested with terrorism, some of which it exports to India periodically but India does not export terrorism even if it has some of its own. There is no global jehad happening from India. India should take a lead and release everytime a Pakistani fisherman is caught, making sure the person is not a terrorist. In this respect, it is important to request Pakistan to give I.D cards to all fisherman. Ditto for India.
Perhap s you have not read or pretending not to have the latest revealation by a senior senior officer that 26/11 Bombay Taj was planned by Indian Govt Agencies So pl you should be ashamed on naming Ajmal Qasab
@Arzoo - "The Saudis and their ilk will never treat the Americans and the Europeans in such manner"
I have seen this criticism thrown at the Saudis more often... But looking back don't you think we have brought this on ourselves... We tend to misuse and abuse their trust, exploit their systems finding loopholes. We tend to jump queues/rules in an all-desi setting abroad, especially when no "foreigner" (read white man) is around. We're loud, brash, argumentative - I've seen this many times during international flights. We're not exactly paragons of virtue that we need to be accorded the same respect as the Americans and the Europeans.
Still we're not talking about the abdication of responsibilities of our Govts and embassies and the lack of political and monetary clout in the modern world...
On top of it, most of our compatriots do "lowly" jobs abroad - we take the lead in describing these as "lowly" back home.. We ourselves don't care about dignity of labour and the expect others to respect us.
@Babloo: Excellent suggestion........shows the working of an enlightened mind.
@C. Nandkishore: I am sorry that you consider the example you are citing as "routine." Yes, it is "routine" in countries living under draconian laws who have no respect for hard working decent individuals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and other such countries. Please consider the following. 1. The Saudis and their ilk will never treat the Americans and the Europeans in such manner, 2. Because we in South Asia choose to live in the Middle Ages, too busy in fighting our petty childish squabbles, instead of developing into modern progressive states, our people are working in petro-dollar countries where they face these anachronistic conditions, 3. Most of Europe has become borderless and visa-less for its' citizens and here we are being jailed for visiting a city not on the itinerary, and finally, 4. Innumerable number of Saudis, upon attaining the age of 13, used to come to India, for employment. Jobs were waiting for them, and they were treated with utmost respect and honor. They lived in Makalla, Barkas, and many other such places in the princely states of Hyderabad, Bhopal, and other cities in India and Pakistan. I know that it probably sounds incredulous to you, but ask the people from Hadhramaut and old timers in Jeddah and you will find that what I am saying is true. Be well.
I can give an example: I had a colleague, in Riyadh, who was from Hyderabad, India. His cousin, from Karachi, was working in Kuwait. While on a pilgrimage to Mecca with valid papers from Kuwait, this cousin took a detour to Riyadh. Now you can't take a detour, the route is fixed while traveling from Kuwait to Mecca.. He was stopped by the police and jailed for 15 days. Since my colleague was also found along with him in Riyadh, he too had to spend 15 days in jail. So don't worry, this is routinely done by all countries. You cross the border, you are jailed. Your jail for 15 days is a cooling time just to make sure that whatever your are couriering loses its value.
The main reason for this is the maritime dispute. Several years ago Pakistan backed out from an agreement regarding maritime borders of both countries to the west of India. The Sir Creek issue has still not been resolved ever since due to both countries demanding a different 'line' in the waters. There is no clearly marked territory and this leads to fishermen getting captured by Indian and Pakistani forces. As per the latest report by Pakistan's government, 438 Indian fishermen are in prisons in Pakistan and 165 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian custody.
I agree with Babloo-ji 100%
If Pakistan doesn't agree, let India do this thing unilaterally. Release any Pak fishermen caught immediately. It serves no purpose to detain them.
just because (some) Indians and Pakistanis do not like each other, does not necessarily mean we give up on basic principles of humanity.
@ Shivam Vij: If you have not yet, you must read Saadat Hasan Manto's 'Toba Tek Singh' in order to fathom this insanity known as India and Pakistan. Fundamentally our societies, on either side of the border, do not have the respect and love of the common man. If we do not even care for our own people; and have any empathy for our most oppressed; as the fishermen, essentially the peasants of the seas, are; how could we even begin to show any sympathy for the fisher folks from the other side of the border??? They could rot in jail; or in their own shanty towns and hamlets, we do not have time from our petty squabbles to worry about them. Civilized societies if we were, we would have developed programs to train and equip our fishermen in modern marine techniques to make better catch, store the fish longer, process the fish in a more sanitary way and live happier. Since both countries are unable to regulate fish's movement across the border with inhumane visa and passport controls, they are limited to subjugate and oppress the already oppressed: the fishermen and their families.
At least India has valid reasons to be suspicious of Pakistani 'fishermen' as, in the past, they have included 'fisherman' like Ajmal Kasab & co. What reason does Pakistan have?
If this was the matter between individuals and had there been no governments involved, it would be solved amicably. There would be less egotism. But when governments get involved they make it a matter of ego--you do something wrong to my people and I will do worse to your people--to the detriment of common people on both sides. The sad part is this will continue for at least another 50 years until effects of globalization come to fruition. And/or an educated, practical and empathetic young leadership assumes the reins of governments in both the countries.
Realy liked what you wrote also noticed ( how could one not ) your throwing in Modi's name for effect. Jatin Desai's solution is the simple answer ............... but for both our politicians I suppose simple is untrust-worthy and complicated is good.
"has suddenly been asked to recognise which fish is Pakistani and which fish is Indian." ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The solution obviosuly is to issue Passports to the Fish or color code them.
India Pakistan should sign an accord to return fishermen , within 24 hours. Just confiscate the fish, if you must , and let the fishermen go back immediately.