'She never gave up on my release. I am indebted to her'
Hamid Nihal Ansari, a software engineer from Mumbai, returned to India in December 2018 after spending six years in a Pakistani jail for illegally entering the neighbouring country from Afghanistan, reportedly to meet a girl he had befriended online.
He was arrested in 2012 and lodged at Peshawar jail after Pakistan had slapped espionage charges against him.
The decision to release him was on account of relentless pressure from New Delhi and Sushma Swaraj, who was the external affairs minister and was personally monitoring the case.
Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Ansari recalls the time he spent with her and says that if it wasn't for her efforts, he would still be rotting away in a Pakistani cell.
"The news of her death is very shocking for me; she was like my mother. I am very depressed to hear this news. Initially, I thought she was critically ill and therefore, all my family members were praying for her good health.
Unfortunately, we got a call later from a family friend informing us that Sushma Ma'am is no more. I felt devastated.
I could not have been freed from the Pakistani jail if Sushma ma'am had not intervened. I would have rotted away if she had not taken a personal interest in my case. She wrote 96 letters to Pakistani authorities to give me consular access. She never gave up on my release. My life is indebted to her.
While I was behind bars, I did not know that she had worked so hard for my release. On my arrival to India, my parents told me that it was her efforts that enabled my release. When I met her she was so warm and told me not to think of the past. What is gone is gone, think of the future, was her advice.
She was like an angel to me and all those Indians who are trapped in jails abroad. I have no words to express her gratitude. Today, I am free and living in India it is thanks to Sushma ma'am. Who writes 96 letters? But she did till the time I got consular access and I was a free man.
The time I spent at the ministry of external affairs was the most precious moments of my life. I am writing a book about my life and thought that I would meet her and gift it to her. Unfortunately, this will never happen now.
I do hope in future we get such politicians to run our country but her loss is irreplaceable."