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Home » News » India-Italy stand-off over fishermens killing – 109 Indian prisoners in Italian jails, but govt clueless

India-Italy stand-off over fishermens killing – 109 Indian prisoners in Italian jails, but govt clueless

NEW DELHI: Italy has cocked a snook at India by refusing to let its marines face Indian law. But ironic as it is, 109 Indian prisoners are reportedly languishing in Italian jails and the Indian government seems to have done precious little to help their case.

The country”s record at helping its citizens who run into trouble abroad is, in any case, nothing to be proud of. Surprisingly, though, in the context of the Indians in Italian jails, the government seems to be completely clueless and is not even aware of the reasons behind their detention.

The explanation given by the government, in response to a question put up in the Rajya Sabha in February 2010, was that the Italian government maintains privacy about prisoners and has not informed New Delhi despite having been requested. The status quo seems to have been maintained as the number of prisoners lodged in Italy have remained the same as per data provided by external affairs minister Salman Khursheed in the Rajya Sabha in November last year. Which means that either no Indian has been released from Italian jails in the past two years or the government has simply not followed up on the cases after Italy refused to share information.

“It”s surprising the way our government plays its hand. It was evident in the way it allowed itself to

be taken in by the Italians in the marines case and now it seems to have given up on its own citizens too because the Italians refuse to share information,” says Delhi-based lawyer Avi Singh. “The least it can do is to have the Indian embassy in Italy find out details and pursue the cases.”

Officials at the Indian embassy in Rome did not respond to TOI”s queries on the subject, despite repeated attempts. Sources in the Indian community in Italy, however, say that the embassy rarely, if ever, takes up cases of detention of Indian nationals with the Italians. “I don”t think that our embassy has intervened with the Italians whenever Indians have been arrested. Usually, those who land in trouble have had to fend for themselves,” says Nandkumar Kurup, president of the Indian Association of Northern Italy.

Majority of the cases – almost 95%– say sources, pertain to agricultural labourers from Punjab who might have been booked for offences ranging from illegal entry to violence, theft and murder. Their numbers, however, could be far more than reported. “As per our estimates, there would be at least 600-700 Indians in prisons here,” says Sukhdev Singh Kang, a local Sikh leader in Milan. “But because so much secrecy is maintained by the Italian authorities, it is very difficult to find out the real picture.”

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