30 May - 5 June 2014 #709

“Can’t remember the way back home”

Kantipur, 24 May

Bhupalman Damai (see pic) spent 14 years at an Indian prison after being convicted of bank robbery, car theft and plane hijacking. He was released last month from Patiala Central Jail after charges levelled against him couldn’t be proved in court.

An excerpt from his conversation with local media.

How long were you jailed for?

I spent almost 15 years in jail.

What has changed in all these years?

My parents died while I was in prison, my wife eloped with someone else. My entire life’s been destroyed. I was a business man and had done nothing wrong. But they pressed false charges against me, and put me in prison.

Where did you work earlier?

I owned a small restaurant in Kathmandu and was also involved in the textile business.

Aren't you demanding compensation after being jailed on false charges?

I know I deserve compensation but will they really compensate me? If it was in the US or Canada justice may have been served, but there is no hope of justice and compensation here. I was punished for nothing. If I had provided anyone with weapons then the CIB would have tried me in court.

Why were you caught then?

I was in Bombay for business but somehow got framed for possession of weapons and then imprisoned. Initially, I was also accused of bank robbery and car theft, both charges were dismissed after it couldn’t be proved in court.

Did your family visit you in jail?

My family is really poor so no one could really come and visit me. Three years ago, my son came to meet me and he told me about my parents’ death and my wife’s elopement. It was after hearing these news that my mental health began deteriorating.

How do you plan to return home?

The police here have put a stamp on my arm which they say will get me a free train ticket to Gorakhpur. I was able to collect around INR 1000 from my friends in prison. But I don’t know if it’ll be enough to get me to my village.

What about your family at home?

I have spent a long time away from home, and don’t even remember my way back. My children live with my uncle. I was 40 then, now I am over 54.

What do you plan to do once you are back?

I can't do anything else besides going back to farming, that too if only we still have our family land.

How did you manage to pay the fine for your release?

As soon as I got the court orders for my release in March, I began asking my fellow jailmates for help. Their contributions made it possible for me to pay the fine.

What happened to you in jail?

I have forgotten most of the things that happened there. Unlike other prisoners, I was never once granted leave. If they wanted they could have released me on bail. What was the whole point of conducting the trial in my case so secretively in the Patiyala court?

So you are saying you were framed?

I did nothing wrong. I spent all these years in jail for crimes I had never committed. None of the accusations against me regarding the airplane hijack could be proved in court. I just want to meet my children and hope to raise and educate them properly.

Do you feel safe now?

One can never be too sure of the future. I’ll always have a fear inside me.