In a Mumbai suburb, an entire neighbourhood was glued to the TV sets on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of Hamid Nihar Ansari, who they saw last six years ago.
As soon as the 33-year-old, released from a Pakistani jail to be repatriated to India, crossed the Wagah-Attari border and kissed the Indian soil, his neighbours in Versova celebrated by hugging each other and distributing sweets.
Ansari then hugged his parents who were present at the border to receive him, six years after he was detained by Pakistani intelligence agencies for entering the country illegally reportedly to meet a girl he had befriended online.
Ansari was detained in 2012 after he entered the country from Afghanistan and subsequently sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by a military court in 2015 for possessing a fake Pakistani identity card.
The Mumbai resident was lodged in the Peshawar Central Jail after being sentenced by the military court on December 15, 2015. His three-year jail term ended on December 15, 2018 but he was not able to leave for India as his legal documents were not ready.
“It was an emotional scene as we saw Hamid cross the border at around 5.30 pm and kneel down to kiss the Indian soil,” said senior journalist and social activist Jatin Desai, who accompanied the youth’s family from Mumbai to Wagah.
Desai, who is general secretary of the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, sat in the visitor’s enclosure with Hamid Ansari’s father Nihal and mother Fouzia at the Wagah border after reaching the border in the morning.
“We expect to return with Hamid to Mumbai tomorrow,” he said.
Nihal Ansari, former bank officer, expressed happiness over his son’s release and thanked the governments in India and Pakistan.
Sayyad Abid Hussain, a Bhopal resident who started a Twitter campaign in 2016 to bring back Hamid also thanked the two governments and Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
“This is the victory of humanity and the struggle by Hamid’s mother Fauzia, a former teacher,” Hussain said.
He recalled that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had retweeted Fauzia Ansari’s tweet seeking release of her son.