Luck, however, had other things in store for the mother of two as she was arrested by the police for entering into the valley without valid travel documents. Four months later, Zoia, a practising Hindu, has been sentenced to one year in jail by a trial court.
Faith transcended all boundaries for 40-year-old Russian Bonetekia Zoia when she embarked on a spiritual journey from Saint Petersburg to the abode of Lord Shiva at the Holy Amarnath cave in August this year.Luck, however, had other things in store for the mother of two as she was arrested by the police for entering into the valley without valid travel documents. Four months later, Zoia, a practising Hindu, has been sentenced to one year in jail by a trial court.As Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a two-day Russia visit from Wednesday, the clamour is growing for pardoning or commuting the sentence of Zoia so that she could be reunited with her family at Saint Petersburg.Noted Supreme Court lawyer and chief patron of National Panthers Party Bhim Singh has written a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking his intervention for her release from prison.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”That India is a sovereign country and the tourists from Nepal may enter India. It appears that the Russian lady had no valid visa to visit India if it is so, it has to be ascertained how she was allowed to enter India without valid documents from Nepal. The immigration at the border is responsible for this goof-up and not the visiting tourist,” Singh said in his letter.Zoia was arrested by the police near Sonamarg on August 24 and charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act since she was not carrying the travel documents. “She has entered India through Nepal to perform yatra.While performing yatra, she was trapped by the police in the catchment area of the holy cave,” Umar Rashid Wani, the counsel for Zoia, told dna.The Russian could not be bailed out because nobody in Kashmir came forward to give surety for her. “I did not have surety to present on her behalf. If nobody stands as surety, how can a person get bail? It was not possible for me to get a passport because she actually had lost it somewhere in Nepal. Therefore, I had to confess on her behalf. Accordingly, the court convicted and sentenced her to one year jail which otherwise could have been five years,” said Wani.Wani has now decided to approach the Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra seeking a pardon for the Russian visitor.”I will appeal the governor, who has the power, to pardon or commute her sentence. If she is pardoned it will be a good gesture. There are good relations between India and Russia since the dawn of civilisation. Plus, she had come with a purpose to seek peace across the globe. She was driven by faith and not having any ill intention,” he said.