New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday accused Pakistan of committing serious and gross violation of human rights of the family members of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and creating an intimidating atmosphere for them during their meeting with him which was used as an instrument to further Islamabad’s propaganda.
“There are not enough words to condemn the same,” Sushma Swaraj said in both the Houses of Parliament as members endorsed her statement, which also stated that the meeting on Monday in Islamabad was portrayed by Pakistan as a humanitarian gesture “but the truth is that both humanity and compassion were missing”.
“I am fully confident that this entire House and through this House, the people of India, strongly condemn in one voice the obnoxious behaviour of Pakistan and affirm their solidarity with the Jadhav family,” the Minister said in identical statements in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
Taking the floor after the Minister’s statement, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the treatment meted out by the Pakistani authorities to the family was “an insult to 130 crore Indians”.
“Regardless of political differences, when it comes to the country’s dignity and another country misbehaves with our mothers and sisters, it will not be tolerated,” said Azad.
Referring to the meeting on Christmas Day that was arranged through diplomatic channels, Sushma Swaraj said while the meeting could have been a step forward in India-Pakistan relations, it was a matter of great concern that there was departure from the agreed understanding between the two countries.
“The emotional moment between the mother and her son, and a wife and her husband after a period of 22 months, was misused by Pakistan as an instrument to further its propaganda,” she said, adding that the Ministry had stated its position in this regard on Tuesday.
India’s concern arising out of this meeting were conveyed to Pakistan through diplomatic channels on Wednesday, she said.
Listing the concerns conveyed to Islamabad, the Minister said there was a clear agreement that the media would not be allowed close access to Jadhav’s mother and wife. However, not only was the Pakistani press allowed to approach them closely “but the family members were also harassed through use of offensive language by the media”.
“The Pakistani media hurled false and motivated accusations about Jadhav,” she stated.
Under the pretext of security precautions, even the attire of the family members was changed.
“Jadhav’s mother, who wears a sari only, was instead given salwar and kurta to wear. Bindi, bangles and mangalsutra of the wife were removed,” she said.
“The mother wanted to talk to her son in mother tongue Marathi, as this is clearly the natural medium of communication between a mother and son. However, she was not allowed to speak in Marathi.
“While doing so, she was repeatedly interrupted by the two Pakistani officials present in the meeting. When she persisted, the intercom was closed and she was prevented from proceeding further with the conversation in Marathi.
“The first thing that Kulbhushan asked his mother was ‘what happened to father’ after he saw no mangalsutra on his mother.”
She said the family members were taken for a meeting through a separate door without informing the Deputy High Commissioner of India J.P. Singh, who had accompanied the two women for the meeting.
Consequently, he could not see that the family members were being taken for the meeting after changing their attire and removing their bindi, bangles and mangalsutra.
“Otherwise he would have objected then and there. The meeting was started without his presence and he could join only after pressing the matter with officials concerned.”
The External Affairs Minister said the car for Jadhav’s family and the accompanying Indian diplomat was delayed after the meeting “so as to give another opportunity to the media to harass them”.
“The shoes of the wife of Jadhav were removed before the meeting and she was given slippers to wear to the meeting. The shoes were not returned to her despite repeated requests after the meeting,” she said, adding that that Pakistani authorities have been cautioned against any mischievous intent in this regard through a note verbale on Wednesday.
It was absurd on the part of Pakistan to suggest there was a mystery chip or camera or recording device planted inside Jadhav’s wife’s shoes, she said. “It is an absurdity beyond measure.”
Sushma Swaraj said the mother and wife after their return to India conveyed to her that Jadhav “appeared under considerable stress and was speaking in an atmosphere of coercion”.
“As the meeting evolved, it was clear to them that his remarks were tutored by his captors and designed to perpetuate the false narrative of his alleged activities. His appearance also raised questions of his health and well being.”
Opposition members in both the Houses supported the government over the issue after Sushma Swaraj’s statement.
Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien said: “We are in complete agreement with every word of what the Minister said. We stand by the statement and support the government on this.”
Later Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu stated that the entire House asked the government to take steps for Jadhav’s safe release.
As the Minister read her statement in the Lok Sabha, members across party lines joined in condemning Pakistan. As Sushma Swaraj was speaking, some members shouted “Pakistan Murdabad” slogans and “Shame, shame” slamming Pakistan.