Thiruvananthapuram, Aug. 18: Like many Malayalees, C. Ibrahim had set off for the Gulf of his dreams in 1969. Over 30 years later, it’s a nightmare he cannot shake off.
On June 5, police picked him up from his wife’s house in Kozhikode, Kerala. On July 30, he was taken to the Wagah checkpost to be sent to Pakistan. He escaped deportation after an immigration official found his papers inadequate.
The 53-year-old asthmatic-diabetic Ibrahim suffered a harrowing train journey to the border and back because he is said to have strayed into Karachi 34 years ago.
Ibrahim is not the only Keralite who has been branded a “Pakistani”. There are 360-odd other “Indian Pakistanis”, many well past the age of 70, who are living in India on extensions.
Many had gone to Pakistan in the 1940s in search of jobs as hotel boys or beedi workers but had virtually been rendered Pakistanis after the Partition. Back in India, they want to stay put in their place of birth in their last years. But they live in daily fear of the policeman’s knock.
When Ibrahim got off at Kozhikode railway station on August 4 on his return, he saw the waiting reporters and broke down. “Let me live or hang me. I am not a Pakistani spy and I do not want to go back to Pakistan,” he cried.
A few days later, Ibrahim, suspecting every visitor to be a special branch operative, spoke the same words.
The Malayalee from Muslim-dominated Malabar with an Indian voter’s card and ration card set off on his stateless spin in 1969 in a sail-by-night boat headed for the Gulf from Mumbai.
When the launch finally berthed at a foreign port, his handler asked him to disembark. A few hundred metres into the land, Ibrahim realised he had been dumped in Karachi and not the Gulf.
There, he came in touch with Malayalees who had come to Karachi years ago and been caught on the other side of the border during Partition. They were engaged in small businesses or odd jobs. Like them, he secured a road pass in Karachi and, in 1978, got himself a Pakistani passport, the only legal means to return to India.
Ibrahim visited his village in 1980 but returned to Pakistan after two months. He came back to India across the Punjab border in 1983 and worked there for a few months.
Subsequently, he returned to Kerala to set up a fish-vending business, married Kunhalu and had three sons. After Kunhalu died, he married Nabeesa in 1988, had two daughters and started living at Vellikulangara in Vatakara.
The police came calling in 1996. They told Ibrahim that the Union home ministry had rejected his citizenship application submitted under Section 9 of the Citizenship Act for a naturalised Indian.
When the notice to leave India was served, he vanished to Ajmer where he worked as a cook till this year.
Getting back to Kerala, he submitted another application under Section V 1(a) of the Citizenship Act for registration by foreigners, with the help of lawyer T.V. Ashraf.
The local police, however, took him into custody on June 5. After about 50 days in the police station, the local magistrate allowed his deportation under the notice issued in 1996. “We were helpless. We could not prevent it since the police claimed the deportation was based on the quit notice issued in 1996,” Ashraf said.
Ibrahim said: “I thought the magistrate had signed my death warrant and that I would never, ever see my dear ones. I couldn’t even formally take leave of them because the police had accosted me out of the house, saying they wanted more details for the citizenship application”.
After deputy superintendent P. Darshan Singh rejected the deportation over inadequate papers, the same magistrate let him off on conditional bail.
Ibrahim is now awaiting a final humanitarian disposal of his citizenship application along with 360-odd state-less “Indian Pakistanis”.