On 6th April 2020 at about 7 PM. I received this email from a gentleman named Ehsan Ahmed.
Dear Justice Katju,
I am writing this in hopes you can help. I am a Pakistani citizen currently stranded in India and was told to email you regarding special exit permission via Attari Border. I came to India in March 12th and was supposed to go back on March 19th but the border got closed.
The visa expired on March 19th and the same day I applied for an extension online which under Indian Govt directives have been extended till April 30.
Since then I have been stuck in Punjab and trying to get special permission to exit through Attari border. I have contacted the Pakistani High commission which has told me that a list of Stranded Pakistanis was sent to the Govt of India for approval but the have not been given approval as of yet.
There are over 25 families right now in the same situation as me and they are looking for assistance from Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to get back home as it’s getting tougher for us day by day.
I along with other Stranded families would really appreciate any assistance you can provide in approaching MOHA or MEA in this regards.
I did not know this person, and I don’t know how he got my email ID. Maybe someone had told him something about me, that I was not hostile to Pakistanis, and had advised him to approach me for help, and also gave my email ID.
The problem of Ehsan, who is a marketing manager in a firm in USA, and was a Pakistani, was this: he had come to India on 12th March on a one week visa expiring on 19th March, to visit his grandfather’s village in district Gurdaspur. He was to have left India for Pakistan on 19th March, but found the Attari border closed due to the coronavirus scare. Many Pakistanis visiting India were faced with the same situation and were stranded in India..
Since Ehsan had come to India for only a week he would have brought with him money and supplies only for that period. But now he was faced with a situation in which one could not predict how long he would have to stay in India. The same would have been the predicament of other stranded Pakistanis. The government of India extended the visas of all such stranded persons till 30th April, but they were anxious to get back as their resources could not last long. It was in this situation that Ehsan sent me the email on the evening of 6th April.
On receiving this email I approached my friend Prabhu Dayal, a former very senior officer of the Indian Foreign Service, who had served as Indian Ambassador to many countries, and asked him if he could help.
Prabhu is younger to me by several years, and comes from my home town Allahabad, and we know each other well.
Within a few hours of receiving my email Prabhu sent this email the same day (7th April) to a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Indian government.
Dear Joint Secretary,
I am forwarding a self explanatory email which I have received from Justice Markandey Katju. He is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.
I would be grateful if you could render necessary assistance in the matter.
No doubt Prabhu is a retired IFS officer, but the present officers would all have been his subordinates or his juniors at one time. Prabhu had a high reputation in his service, and is highly respected. So his email to the joint secretary must have made an impact, for on 16th April I received this email from Ehsan.
Dear Justice Katju and Mr Dayal,
I just want to offer my deepest gratitude to both of you for highlighting the case of stranded Pakistanis and with your efforts 41 of them were repatriated through special permission via Attari Border.
I can not express my words for the love and support you have shown to a stranger like me and wrote on my behalf to MEA.
Despite of the lockdown and the bleak situation in India, it was a memorable trip that will remain forever etched in my memory.
I hope to meet you two in person some day.
In this email he thanked Prabhu and me, stating that because of our efforts 41 stranded Pakistanis, including himself, had crossed over to Pakistan.
I replied that I had only done my duty as a human being, and was happy that many are now back home
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.