Dhule: Indian Army sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan's kin and residents of his native village Bohivir in northern Maharashtra were overjoyed on his release on Saturday by Pakistan. His family thanked authorities for securing his safe return.
Scores of villagers came out into the streets to greet the Chavan family, who were overwhelmed by the unexpected turn of events, laughing and crying at the same time.
Chavan's elder brother Bhushan said: "We are extremely grateful to the government for securing his safe release. We shall remain indebted to (Minister of State for Defence) Subhash Bhamre for all his help in ensuring his return home."
"It is unbelievable and the news is still sinking in. We are so happy... for us, its like all festivals -- Diwali, Holi -- coming together simultaneously and we shall celebrate when he comes home after such a long time," his married sister Rupali Patil said wiping away tears of joy.
Pakistan defence and border authorities on Saturday released Chavan -- who had inadvertently crossed the Line of Control in September 2015 -- and handed him over to Indian authorities at the Wagah-Attari Joint Check Post, Border Security Force (BSF) officials said.
Chavan, 23, of 37 Rashtriya Rifles, was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army after he inadvertently crossed the LoC in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir, just hours after the Indian forces carried out surgical strikes on September 29 across the LoC to destroy terrorist launch pads.
After hearing of the news of Chavan's capture, his aged grandmother suffered a heart attack and died a few days later.
Bhamre -- who represents Dhule constituency where Chavan's village is -- maintained regular touch with his family all these months.
At a function in Mumbai 10 days ago, Bhamre had indicated the possibility of securing Chavan's early release from Pakistan though he did not specify any time-frame.