| Barao Abdul in hospital. Picture by Julius Gomes
Barao Abdul has been languishing in the psychiatric department of Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital for nine months. Between her and home lie lots of red tape and a thorny border.
For Adbul claims she’s from Balgaon, in Harchoyal, district of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“I can’t remember how I came here, but I would love to go home to my family. I only wish someone comes to take me away from here,” the 30-year-old told Metro.
“My father Sakhatar Abdul is a doctor in the Pakistan Army... My family had a mango orchard and dealt in fruits. I have a Master’s in arts... My husband’s name is Abdul Rehman,” she added.
Abdul was found lying unconscious near Contai, on the Calcutta-Digha highway, early on April 27, 2006.
She was admitted to Contai sub-divisional hospital by local residents and social workers. The attending doctor in Contai referred her to ‘NRS’ on May 16, 2006, but the referral card was not sent to the Calcutta hospital for three months.
That was when an NGO stepped in. Utpal Roy, general secretary of Diganta, wrote to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on August 17.
On August 25, the principal of NRS Medical College and Hospital received a missive from Jayasree Mitra, director of medical education and ex-officio secretary, West Bengal, instructing him to transport and admit the patient.
Abdul was brought to Calcutta from Contai sub-divisional hospital in an ambulance with police escort on August 28, and admitted to NRS Hospital. She has been there ever since.
According to attending doctor Srijit Ghosh, Abdul had suffered “a psychotic episode” and was hallucinating when she was admitted. She is “much better now” but is still confused and disoriented.
“It is tragic that what Abdul needs most for her recovery — a family environment she’s familiar with — cannot be provided to her due to the strained relations between India and Pakistan,” said Roy of Diganta.
Efforts to establish Abdul’s identity have been thwarted, with Pakistani high commission officials in New Delhi not being allowed to come to Calcutta and meet Abdul.
“The matter was referred to us and we had approached the Indian government for permission to visit Calcutta about six months back, but no one has got back to us,” said Syed Zulfikar Gardezi, head of chancery of the Pakistani high commission.
This, despite the Pakistani administration verifying that Abdul had, indeed, gone missing from Balgaon.
When Metro contacted the office of Navtej Sarna, joint secretary (external publicity), ministry of external affairs, on Monday afternoon, his secretary said he was busy in a meeting and would call back if he had anything to say on the matter. The call didn’t come.
And Abdul waits.