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On way home after 17 long years

LAHORE, Nov 29: An Indian woman who has spent 17 long years in Pakistan will finally board a plane on Friday to reunite with her family in Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

“Yellamilli Kejiamani was brought to Pakistan in 1990 by one Riaz from Kuwait where both of them had been working,” says Rao Abid Hamid, a senior official at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

“Riaz, a resident of Lahore, snatched everything she had and burnt her Indian passport. He also used to torture her before throwing her out of his house six months after she had reached Pakistan,” says Rao Abid Hamid.

She spent the next 10 years of her life in mental obscurity.

She tells Dawn: “I had lost my senses. Then I met Muhammad Amin, a cook, who took me to his house and provided me shelter. But soon my presence in his house started causing trouble for him.”

Rao Abid Hamid says: “Amin’s wife did not want to keep her at their home, and one of his neighbours filed a case against him for keeping a woman in his house without legal permission.”

“Under pressure, Amin shifted her to his native village in Sahiwal district and arranged a paper marriage with her after giving her a Muslim name, Ayesha,” he adds.

Kejiamani, born to a Christian family in Sakhinetialli Mandal village in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godaveri district, in the meanwhile succeeded to revive her contacts with her family back in India and one of her two sons working in Qatar. A cousin of her who now lives in England also came to know about her whereabouts in Pakistan.

“My father is a tenant of Kejiamani’s cousin in England. The landlady told him about her cousin, and we started working on how to help her reunion with her family,” says the man who has been hosting her in Lahore before her departure back to India.

Not wanting to be named, he says the first step for him was to see her in Sahiwal and talk to his friends what he could do to facilitate her return to India.

“My friends put me in touch with HRCP about a couple of months ago,” he tells Dawn.

At HRCP, Rao Abid Hamid is amazed how quickly the situation turned in her favour. After he wrote a letter on Sept 24, 2007, to the Indian high commission in Islamabad, she was granted an Indian visa.

This could not have happened, however, if Amin had not helped her get a Pakistani identity card and a passport. “After losing her Indian passport, she only had a residence/nativity registration card issued in her name by local authorities in her Indian village and the phone numbers of her family members,” says Rao Abid Hamid.

It was through these phone numbers that the Indian authorities were able to verify her credentials and that must have helped her case, he adds.

Kejiamani will leave Lahore for Delhi on an Indian Airlines flight on Friday night and is expected to be united with her family by some time on Saturday.

“She will travel by air to Hyderabad (India) from Delhi and then by train for another eight hours to reach her home,” her host says.

Kejiamani tells Dawn she is very happy and cannot further wait to see her family.

Source: Dawn

Date:11/30/2007

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