Fifty-year-old tribal man Birju Kulu’s joy knew no bounds when he was accorded a grand welcome on return to his remote village in Odisha on Friday after spending 20 years in a jail in Pakistan.
It was the end of an ordeal for Kulu, who had left home at the age of 25 years and worked at different places before moving to Punjab and crossing over to Pakistani territory by mistake.
As he reached Katanga village under Kutra block in tribal-dominated Sundergarh district accompanied by senior government officials following his release from a Lahore jail, Kulu was accorded a rousing welcome by the local residents at a function.
A large number of villagers from the area welcomed Kulu amidst traditional tribal dance, music and beating of drums and other instruments. People from nearby areas lined up on both sides of the village road to have a glimpse of Kulu as he proceeded to the venue.
His parents are no more, but his paternal uncle and aunt, sister and her family were eagerly waiting for him ever since information about his release was received.
“I am very happy that I am back in my native place and I will live here for the rest of my life. I am trying to recognise my friends and other relatives whom I had left behind. And this is a great moment for me,” said Kulu.
Kulu had left home and somehow walked across the border into Pakistan by mistake when he was in Punjab. He was caught, taken into custody on the suspicion of being an Indian spy and put in jail. “I was with 20 persons in the cell. We were being given food regularly. But, I always wanted to come back to my village and finally my prayers were heard and I came back,” he said.
A team of officials from the district administration had travelled to Amritsar in Punjab to bring Kulu back after he was released and handed over to the Indian authorities last month. He was placed in quarantine at a hospital in Amritsar following his return from Pakistan, officials said.
His sister Tedrace Kullu said: “our parents waited for him all their life. And today I am very happy that he has come back. I will not allow him to go away anywhere.”
Block Development Officer (BDO) of Kutra, Manas Ray said Kulu would be provided with ration card, Aadhaar card and benefits under different government schemes. “We will also try to get him a house to stay as per government provisions,” the BDO said.
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