An engineer from Mumbai, who spent six years in a jail in Pakistan on espionage charges, was among those who was helped by Sushma Swaraj. Ms Swaraj, former foreign minister and BJP veteran, was one of the most-loved political leaders in recent times for all the right reasons. Ms Swaraj died on Tuesday evening after a cardiac arrest and. Her sudden death has left her admirers and leaders across parties in shock and grief.
Hamid Nihal Ansari was released by Pakistani authorities last December, thanks to Ms Swaraj's persistence.
"I have deep respect for her she will always stay alive in my heart. She was like a mother to me. After my return from Pakistan, she guided me to look ahead. It's a big loss for me," Ms Ansari told news agency ANI.
Ms Swaraj leaves a legacy of an easily-accessible politician who helped the Indians abroad in distress with her quick response on Twitter to requests for help when she was the foreign minister. Even banal or joking requests drew a response from Sushma Swaraj.
The Mumbai resident was arrested in Pakistan in 2012 and was imprisoned in the Peshawar Central Jail after being sentenced by a military court on December 15, 2015.
Pakistan claimed that Mr Ansari was an "Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan and was involved in anti-state crimes and forging documents."
Last December, the engineer crossed the Attari-Wagah border into India to a tearful reunion with his Mumbai-based family on Tuesday. There were many he wanted to thank for bringing him back home.
But his warmest gratitude was reserved for Ms Swaraj, who met him soon after his return from Pakistan. She welcomed Ms Ansari and family with a warm hug. "When Sushmaji embraced me, she called me 'son'. I could see the love she had for us. My brother and I both told Sushmaji that she's no less than Mother India for the country's youth," Mr Ansari had said.
"Mera Bharat mahaan, meri madam mahaan, sab madam ne hi kiya hai (My Bharat is great, my madam is great. Madam has done everything)," Mr Ansari's mother Fauzia, who accompanied him for the meeting, had said.
(With inputs from ANI)
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