‘Tis the time of the year when our homes light up like a Christmas tree, we cheat on our diet plans, bring out those fun board games and meet family and friends from far and near. But as someone living away from family in another city, festive occasions are like the ‘Achilles Heel’ to the sense of independence, space and freedom I claim to on most other days.
In the hopes of finding some company to my misery, I went around the office to know how my peers spent the holidays with their dear folks.
However, leave or travel costs aside, most of us have the choice to spend the holiday season with our loved ones. Of course, we know of countless people who may not be as fortunate to have a safe and loving environment to celebrate Diwali. But what of those who do, but cannot be with their loved ones even though they have (legally) all the rights and freedom to?
Meet Prajwal, a 24-year-old from Mysore, who spent 5 years in jail on false charges without conviction even though he was entitled to be released on a personal bond (Read: Section 436A). That’s 5 Diwalis that he missed away from his family, in the dark quarters of a jail that didn’t keep any proper and consistent record of his time behind bars.
If you thought this could only happen to someone who was lesser educated or with limited means to access justice a.k.a an expensive laywer, think again. Chetan Mahajan, an MBA corporate professional and author of The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail, was arrested, taken into custody and locked up for 29 days without conviction on account of charges of fraud levied on the company he was working for at the time. Chetan was arrested on the 24th of December, 2012 and spent his New Years’ away from his wife and two kids.
He said, “Financial and emotional support from friends and family helped me live through those days with some hope. Today, I wonder if it wasn’t for the support I had, would my fate be different. This is the case for many undertrials — faceless and forgotten. Without any support to fall back on, they are in effect presumed guilty, and punished“.
This Diwali, help us to make sure no undeserved undertrial spends the festival of light, hope and togetherness away from their loved ones.
About the Author: Makepeace Sitlhou is the Sr. Web Editor at Amnesty International India