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38 years in jail, without trial

Faizabad (Uttar Pradesh), Jan. 22: The last time Jagjivan Ram Yadav saw his son, the little boy was a one-year-old toddler.

The two met again last July, but Keshu was no longer a boy but a 38-year-old man.

He had grown up while his father lay rotting in a mental asylum after being charged with murder.

But, in the birthplace of Ram the legend, freedom is not in sight yet for this mortal Ram, now a bald 70-year-old with a wrinkled face. All the records about the murder he committed way back in 1968 are missing. Which means the court can’t take up his case.

The world forgot about Jagjivan a couple of months after he bludgeoned a neighbour to death till he surfaced on July 5 last year in a Faizabad court.

Fifth additional sessions judge Lal Chandra Tripathi, before whom Jagjivan was produced, sought records from the Khandaga police station where the case was registered.

Several trips to the court followed, but every time the judge got the same reply ' the records were missing.

On January 18, Jagjivan was again in court for another attempt at bail. But the response from the police was predictable.

In his reply, inspector Dhrub Chandra of Khandaga police station said Jagjivan’s father’s name is Mathura Prasad and the case (15/68), filed against him by one Badri Prasad Tiwari, is pending. “No more information could be provided as the records on subsequent action against him could not be found,” he wrote.

Before the old man was led out of the court, the judge sighed. “Thugs booked in severe crimes are out on bail,” he said. “It is pathetic to see that this man has been languishing in jail for 38 years.”

Subhas Chandra, the jailer of Faizabad district jail, said Jagjivan was sent to Varanasi for treatment after his mental health deteriorated. That was after an administrative order dated December 7, 1968.

“We have come to know him since July last year when he was sent back from a hospital in Varanasi. We are just custodians of the man, so we wanted to know from the court how he should be kept in the jail,” Chandra said.

Last July, when Jagjivan met his son for the first time in 37 years, the court was witness to an emotional family reunion. Jagjivan blinked back tears when a former neighbour introduced Keshu to him. “My son, if you are this old, how old have I become'” he said, his voice breaking.

Later, outside the court, Keshu said he grew up knowing that his father had “disappeared” from jail. “He was supposed to have died. I am happy I saw him here. I want to take him back.”

Jagjivan also had a daughter, but she died recently. His wife, now in her sixties, lives with her parents.

Neighbours say Jagjivan was a hardworking farmer with an uncontrollable temper. In 1968, when he was 32, he killed a neighbour’s wife with a hammer and then surrendered to the police.

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