Somewhat reminiscent of the French film, ‘The Return of Martin Guerre,’ a Bangladeshi man has returned to his ancestral village after being officially missing for more than twenty years.
Moslemuddin Sarkar received a hero’s welcome in the village of Bishnurampur in the northern Mymensingh district of Bangladesh.
Sarkar told local media and authorities that he had illegally entered India in 1989 in search of work and eight years later was arrested for crossing into Pakistan without proper documentation. He would eventually spend fifteen years in Pakistani jails before the International Committee of the Red Cross helped him to finally return to his grateful family in Bangladesh.
"I went to Pakistan believing that I would get a better job there. But they caught me at the border. I was beaten and tortured in prison," he told Agence France Presse.
"I wrote dozens of letters to my village address, but did not have any clue that they were never posted. At one stage I lost all hope of returning home.”
The Red Cross received a tip that Sarkar was languishing in a prison in Karachi. With the help of the Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad, he was ultimately freed and returned home.
An Associated Press reporter named Julhas Alam, who also hails from the village of Bishnurampur, also assisted in Sarkar’s homecoming.
According to Gulf News, Sarkar is in his early 50s and got married during his sojourn in India.
Sarkar was delighted to find that his elderly mother was still alive.
Julhas Uddin, Sarkar's younger brother, told AFP: "We searched for him for years and finally gave up hope believing he might have drowned in the sea. But our mother always believed that her son would return home one day. My mother passed out as he hugged her after returning. It was a heartbreaking scene. He could not control his tears for hours.”
Onchita Shadman, a spokesperson for the Red Cross, described Sarkar as "frail and overwhelmed".
Bangladesh media reported that there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other people who are languishing in jails in both India and Pakistan for illegal border crossing.
In the aforementioned French movie, which was based on a real incident from the sixteenth century, the ‘Martin Guerre’ who returned to his village turned out to be an impostor. The ‘fake’ Guerre was actually a man named Arnaud du Tilh, who bore a physical resemblance to Guerre and knew enough about his native village that he was able to pass as the genuine article, until suspicions arose.
Du Tilh was eventually executed for his deception.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.