The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jammu boy comes home to freedom
Ranjit in Wagah on Saturday. (AFP)

Krial Brahamana, (Jammu), Aug. 31: A repentant Ranjit Kumar walked into the welcoming arms of his mother early today.

“I can’t believe my eyes,” Kailsho Devi said, rubbing her eyes, as her son fell at her feet four years after he had strayed into Pakistan in a fit of anger.

Pakistan handed 19-year-old Ranjit over to Indian authorities yesterday afternoon at the Wagah border near Amritsar. It was dawn today when he finally reached home here.

“Please forgive me. I will never do it again,” Ranjit said as a happy Kailsho silently caressed his hair.

While the reunion took place in front of the entire village, family members celebrated by distributing sweets. “He looks the same as four years ago,” said friend Yogesh, examining Ranjit by the light of a lamppost. “Maybe he has gained height by an inch or two.”

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed welcomed Ranjit’s release as a reciprocal gesture to India’s release of 13-year-old Munir, PTI said. “Time has come when we should demolish the walls of hatred and establish a bank of goodwill that alone can assure lasting peace in the region,” he said at a seminar in Calcutta last night.

For Kailsho, her son’s return was the end of the family’s long-drawn trauma.

“My prayers have been answered. I am happy that my son is back with me. Do you know how difficult it was without him,” she said haltingly, trying to control her emotions.

Kailsho had admonished her son for bunking school in 1999, provoking Ranjit to walk away from his village in a huff and into Sialkot in Pakistan. “I was not willing to continue my studies and my parents were adamant that I do so. In a fit of anger, I crossed the border,” he said.

According to the news agency, the boy was confined in jails in Sialkot, Gujranwala and Lahore. “It is hell over there and it is heaven over here,” a relieved Ranjit said.

But the boy has not forgotten fellow inmates at Kot Lakhpat jail, especially Ranbirsinghpora. He has taken the responsibility of handing their letters over to their families. Kailsho’s thoughts were with her family as it was now complete. She said she was never happier than today, even when her eldest son got married.

“That was incomplete joy. Today, I am really happy,” she said.

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