Some days ago, visuals were flashed across news channels and social media portals in India and Pakistan when Pakistan decided to make a mockery of the visit of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family to meet him in a Jail in Islamabad.
A public spectacle was made out of a meeting, which should have been a private, intimate moment for the suffering family. Even the very basic right of a prisoner to have a non-interfering meeting with his family was grossly violated with the protrusion of cameras all around.
While I watched these sadistic visuals play out on television – and the jamboree that followed it – my mind wandered to my own experiences of working with prisoners in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. I am a social worker, and as part of our curriculum in M.A Social Work, I started to offer counseling in Tihar Jail from July 2016 onwards. It is there that I came across a Bangladeshi citizen, Badol Farazi.
Farazi’s tragic story seems straight out from a Bollywood movie in which a foreign national gets falsely implicated and condemned to a lifetime in a foreign jail.
In 2008, Farazi was arrested from the Benapole Immigration port in 2008 on charges of a murder of an elderly woman in Delhi. Farazi has maintained that this was a case of mistaken identity, but since he knew neither English nor even Hindi, he could not explain to the authorities that he was not even in India on the day of the crime. This was clearly attested to by his passport entries and his school records. In December 2012, the High Commission of Bangladesh in India wrote to the India’s Ministry of External Affairs appending strong evidences in Farazi’s favour. It stated that while the murder in which Farazi was charged with had been committed on 5th May 2008, Farazi’s passport was stamped with Indian visa on 9th July – and indeed the Bangladesh Immigration records confirmed his entry into India at a later date. The letter also cited Farazi’s school records, which show him to be present in school on the date of commission of the offence. (In fact, the Commission has written several letters to MEA but received no positive response).
The sessions court convicted him under section 302 on charges of murder in August 2015 disregarding the evidence on the specious and facetious ground that the borders between India and Bangladesh were porous and it was possible for people to come and go at will. His conviction was later upheld by the High Court, and his appeal has recently been dismissed by the apex court.
His fellow prisoners and jail authorities confirm that he has always consistently maintained his innocence, and believe that there is a strong possibility that he is speaking the truth. Jail authorities are full of praise for his conduct, and marvel at the way in which he has devoted himself to studies.
He finished his schooling and graduation from National Institute of Open Schooling and IGNOU programme available in Tihar. Today, he speaks fluent English.
In Tihar, he was also the Munshi of Ward 11, the education ward of Jail no 3 where all the extra curricular activities such as IGNOU classes, music, art and drama classes were conducted. It is amazing how he continued to retain his zest and spiritedness after nearly nine years of incarceration. I was even more astounded when I learnt that all the education and ample knowledge of current affairs that Badal displayed had been learnt in jail.
Badal carries the dream of Bangladesh with him. He still has the courage to dream that one day perchance he might become the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and come visiting India. Last year he was transferred to the newly opened Mandoli jail where he serves a sevadar. Unnecessarily uprooted from a place he had at least somewhat settled in. He carried his two bags full of possessions with him: books, notebooks, certificates and newspaper clippings.
He was not even 21 when he found himself trapped in an alien land in an alien world. For the past ten years, his mother waits desperately for her son to return back to his native land, while his father passed away pining for him.
As we are outraged, justifiably, over the plight of Jadhav’s family, let us also think of reuniting this unfortunate mother and son.
Rahul Kapoor is currently pursuing his PhD in Social Work from Delhi University. He offers voluntary social work services in Tihar Jail.