It’s been 11 years since Fatima Bibi and Mumtaz have not returned to their native land, Pakistan. The duo was arrested at the Attari Railway station for allegedly possessing contraband and have been in jail since 2006. They were traveling from Pakistan to Uttar Pradesh to meet their relatives.
Along with a 10-year prison sentence, a fine of Rs 2 lakhs each was also imposed on them. While serving jail time, Fatima was pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl, Heena.
Despite completing their jail time in November last year, the women continued to be behind bars as they were unable to pay the Rs 4 lakh fine.
A bleak future and a 10-year old daughter – the Pakistan women had lost all hope until a Batala-based NGO came to their rescue
NGO ‘Sarbat Da Bhala’ made the release of the two women possible by offering to pay the Rs 4 lakh fine on their behalf.
Advocate Navjot Kaur Chabba from the Society of Women and Empowerment and Green Cause provided legal counsel to them. He filed an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking permission for Fatima to speak to her family in Pakistan. As her husband was unable to pay the fine, the NGO stepped in.
“We paid the Rs 4 lakh fine because Heena was born in confinement and deserved a chance at experiencing life beyond bars. She wants to get out, go to her native land, and study. If we hadn’t paid the fine, Heena’s freedom would have been delayed by 4 more years,” said Navtej Singh Guggu of Sarbat Da Bhala, speaking to The Logical Indian.
“Through the child, we wish to send a message to our neighbouring land that love exists beyond the wars and the politics. The girl will be our messenger to the Pakistani Prime Minister – a messenger of love and respect,” he added.
There have been other instances where Pakistani nationals were stuck in India because of committing petty crimes or accidentally crossing the border. In times like these, various NGOs help such people reunite with their families. In 2015, a Pakistani girl, Geeta, returned home after 15 years as she received help from an NGO. She had accidentally crossed the border when she was less than 10-years old.
Living in an unknown country can be frightening for a child. Fatima’s 10-year old daughter, Heena, was born in jail and is unaware of the life beyond the four walls and the iron bars of her mother’s cell.
The Logical Indian commends Sarbat Da Bhala’s efforts to help the two women and Heena return home after more than a decade. They fought for a noble cause and we hope that the NGO continues its good work.
To know more about Sarbat Da Bhala’s work, you can visit their website here.