Disabled man languishes in jail for 8 years without trial for allegedly crossing Indo-Bangla border

Disabled man languishes in jail for 8 years without trial for allegedly crossing Indo-Bangla border

Disabled man languishes in jail for 8 years without trial for allegedly crossing Indo-Bangla border

Unable to communicate, the police are yet to establish the identity of a deaf and mute man they arrested for allegedly crossing the Indian-Bangladesh border illegally eight years ago.

Siliguri: After a youth was forced to spend eight long years of his life in the darkness of a prison cell, the judiciary finally ‘noticed’ that the authorities who had sent him there were yet to establish his crime. Even though at the time of his arrest, the BSF had accused him of infiltrating India from Bangladesh, none of the authorities concerned could so far establish his identity and nationality to prove the charge.

The incident came to the notice of the Jalpaiguri district court after the case came before it for review recently. The court immediately asked the police to confirm the youth’s identity and send him back to Bangladesh if it is established that he is an infiltrator, but the order has put the cops in a fix: They are unable to communicate with him because he is both hearing and speech impaired, as well as illiterate— he cannot write down even his name, forget his address of origin.

Sources in the police department told 101Reporters that the youth was arrested by BSF personnel on February 27, 2013 from Fulbari, a place near the Indo-Bangladesh border in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. He was later handed over to Siliguri Metropolitan Police who filed an FIR and sent him to Jalpaiguri district jail. Even though the police had tried to establish his identity and nationality at that time, they failed.

The only evidence that made the police suspect that he is of Bangladeshi origin are a few items they found in his possession at the time of his arrest — Rs 52 in Bangladeshi currency, a religious book on Islam and a receipt for contributing Rs 100 to an Islamic fund.

The New Jalpaiguri outpost under the Bhakti Nagar police station, where the accused was sent to after his arrest, has now become a police station, but the youth continued to languish in the prison with the authorities closing the probe for want of evidence and forgetting that the accused was yet to be set free.

According to law experts, the Foreigners Act 1946 requires that if the authorities failed to prove within a stipulated time any criminal intent behind a person crossing the border without valid documents, the latter has to be deported to his or her country of origin through the embassy concerned. This process is called “push-back”.

The trouble before the authorities in this case is that they have no means to prove the nationality of the arrested youth—whether he is a Bangladeshi or an Indian. And what lies ahead for this hapless youth is that till his identity is established, he may have to languish in jail—probably even for the rest of his life.

The disabled prisoner (left) during his arrest eight years go and (right) recently (Pictures sourced by Roshan Gupta)

“We are taking all possible steps to find the identity of this person. All we have is his photograph, nothing else. We have sought help from the Bangladesh embassy to trace the youth’s place of origin if he is from that country,” a police official told 101Reporters, adding that they brought in a sign language interpreter to communicate with the arrested youth, but in vain.  

Dalia Roy, a social activist and intern lawyer dealing with cases relating to immigrants in jail, said that the document recovered from the accused was not enough to prove that he was a Bangladeshi. Moreover, bringing in a sign language interpreter would help only if the other person is able to understand the sign language. “In this case, the matter must be brought before the Bangladesh embassy and investigated so that the victim gets justice,” Roy said.

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