One of the most unfortunate visuals flashed across news channels and social media portals in India and Pakistan, just a few days back, when Pakistan decided to make a mockery of the visit of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family to meet him at a jail in Islamabad.
A public spectacle was made of what was supposed to be a private affair in the name of a humanitarian gesture. Even the very basic right of a prisoner to have a interference-free meeting with his family was grossly violated, with the cameras glaring all around.
While I watched these visuals on television, my mind wandered to my own experiences of working with prisoners in Tihar jail in New Delhi. I am a social worker – and currently, I am pursuing my PhD in Social Work from Delhi University. As a part of my curriculum in MA (Social Work), I undertook social work practice in Tihar jail from July 2016. Till date, I have offered voluntary services in Tihar jail. I work for the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners through counseling techniques and professional social work methods of casework and group work.
One such strikingly-similar story which I can recall is of a Bangladeshi citizen named Badol Farazi being falsely implicated. He has been stuck in Tihar for the last 10 years. His mother is still desperately waiting for his son to return back to his native land. His father passed away back home in Bangladesh. However, his last wish to see his son once could not be fulfilled.
I know that it will be difficult for anyone to believe this – but this case seems like a ‘tragic story’ straight out from a Bollywood movie, in which a foreign national gets falsely implicated and is imprisoned in a foreign jail for a long time.
Back in 2008, Badol Farazi was like any other spirited youth whose only purpose to visit India was to explore the beautiful landscapes of this country as a tourist. But, even before he could formally enter the country, he was arrested from the Benapole Immigration port in 2008 on charges of a murder. He did not know English or Hindi – and so, he could not explain to the relevant authorities that he was not the person they were looking for, and that he wasn’t connected to the case at all. Since, Badol could not communicate his innocence to the authorities, he was falsely implicated for the murder of an elderly woman in Delhi by her domestic help, whose name was “Badal Singh”. Instead of Badal Singh, Badol Farazi was arrested.
Badol was later convicted by the sessions court, Saket, New Delhi, under Section 302 of the IPC on charges of murder on August 7, 2015. The judgment was later validated by the Delhi High Court, and he is currently serving a life-imprisonment term. He then filed a petition in the Supreme Court through a lawyer which had been provided to him by the High Commission of Bangladesh in New Delhi. But there too, his case has been dismissed.
In the last 10 years, Badol has maintained that he’s innocent and that he was not even present in India, when the murder took place. All his fellow prisoners and the jail’s authorities confirm that he has always stuck to that one single story. They believe that there is a strong possibility that he is speaking the truth. The jail’s authorities have always praised his conduct and good behavior.
He has indeed come a long way for someone who did not even know English and Hindi. Now, he has completed his class 8, 10, 12 education as well as his graduation – all from the jail’s premises through the National Institute of Open Schooling and the IGNOU programme facilities available in Tihar.
Today, he speaks fluent English and has a certificate testifying that he’s doing exceptionally well in an English-speaking course from Teach India, the Times of India campaign. In fact, he has worked tirelessly inside Tihar and managed the IGNOU centre in Tihar Jail Number 3, till recently. He was shifted to the newly-opened Mandoli jail in Delhi, where he still works as a jail sevadaar.
In 2012, the High Commission of Bangladesh in India wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs, India, requesting the release of Farazi who was claiming his innocence with strong evidences in his favour. The letter, dated December 17, 2012 states that, “It is to mention that Badol Farazi’s Passport No. Y 0220271 was stamped with Indian ‘ T ‘ Visa No, AA 710565 on 9th July ’08 by the High Commission of India, Dhaka whereas the Murder in which he has been entangled was committed in Delhi on 05th May ’08. Indeed he came to India later to the commission of offence but he is miserably suffering from criminal charges being imposed upon illegitimately. It is to note that the HCI (High Commission of India), Dhaka confirmed the issuance of visa for him, Bangladesh Immigration confirmed his date of entry into India and the School authority of Badol confirmed his presence in School during the commission of offence in India & all these events substantiate his innocence in the alleged offence.
It would be very highly appreciated if the esteemed Ministry could kindly convey this message urgently to the concerned authority in order to secure the human rights of the ill-fated individual from an endless and unfair sufferings, please.”
This was not the only letter which the High Commission of Bangladesh in India wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs, India, to seek the release of Badol Farazi. I have also met the Deputy High Commissioner of the Bangladesh High Commission in India, Salahuddin Noman Chowdhury and Mosharaf Hossain, Minister (Consular), Bangladesh High Commission in India, and they have told me that they have already written to the Indian government multiple times requesting the release of Farazi. Since they did not receive any positive reply through diplomatic channels, they hired a good lawyer for him to fight his case. But that wasn’t enough for him, as he still got a life sentence.
Even media houses like the Indian Express highlighted the tragic story of the false implication of Badol, back in 2012.
None of these evidences were enough to set Badol Farazi free from the prison. So, after much contemplation and running from pillar to post in the last one-and-half years, I have decided to resort to collective action and take a stand for Badol, who is constantly looking for hope and support from an entire nation and its judiciary from the last 10 years. Unfortunately, he hasn’t got any, till now.
Kindly sign this petition which I have started to ensure justice for Badol Farazi – so that he can walk out of an Indian jail and go back to his country as a free man and a mother can have her son back again.
As you sign this petition, I am hopeful that it is not long before the national and international community recognises the plight of prisoners stuck in foreign jails. A comprehensive international mechanism for protecting the basic human rights of such prisoners should be laid out, so that no person suffers like Kulbhushan Jadhav or Badol Farazi.