It is like a miracle.

That was Bernadette Kerketa’s tearful reaction when her brother returned to their native village in Jangatoli village in Odisa’s Sundargarh district on November 13. It had been 23 years since he had departed, leaving his family wondering what had happened to him.

Birju Kullu had battled mental illness since childhood so his disappearance was a matter of concern. After some time, his family feared that he had died.

Unknown to them, Birju Kullu had spent two decades in a prison in Lahore. He had been caught by the Pakistani authorities after he mistakenly crossed the border and was sentenced as a spy. Because of his illness, he was unable to explain how he had got to the border region or what he was doing there.

On November 10, Sundargarh Superintendent of Police Sagarika Nath received a phone call from the Ministry of External Affairs telling her that Birju Kullu had been released from the Lahore jail. A video call was arranged between Kullu and his sister, who confirmed that he hailed from the district.

Kullu was one of four Indian prisoners who were released.

He was released from Lahore Central Jail on October 26 and handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border....

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