New Delhi, Jan. 17: Kattan (a spoon forged into a knife), fatta (an area allotted for sleeping in a dingy cell), numbardar (an inmate tasked to man fellow prisoners), mhulaija (medical check-up): these words are more familiar to Kumar Badal now than his cellphone.
The Tehelka reporter knows Kartar Singh, a murder accused lodged in Saharanpur jail, and other co-inmates — Bhupender (a former Ranji player), Subhash, Lala and Pradahanji — better than his eight-month-old son, Adarsh, knows him. Adarsh, who was barely two months old when Badal was put behind bars, cannot recognise his father.
Badal’s trauma ended on Wednesday when the Supreme Court finally granted him bail. But his mind has been scarred forever.
He alleges that the CBI “fixed” him on charges of poaching because he “represented a portal which the government was determined to gag after it exposed corruption in defence deals”.
“I realised immediately the day I was arrested, on July 3 (last year), while in (the) CBI headquarters that I had become a pawn as the government was out to defame Tehelka,” he said.
The experience has left him stunned. “I felt like a tribal who had just walked out of the jungle into an unknown world,” Badal said of his feelings when he walked out of Ghaziabad jail.
The bright lights had dazzled him and he could not operate his mobile. As he tries to connect with his life, in the comforting company of wife Neena and Adarsh, he finds he has to first bond with his son.
He is bitter towards the system, but bears no ill-will towards his cell mates in Saharanpur and Ghaziabad jails, despite being caned by the numbardar and robbed of his belongings. He describes some of them as “good souls” who helped him overcome his initial fears.
The jailbirds have left such a deep impression that he is writing a book, Jail Specials. It will contain 50 short pieces, including interesting anecdotes and Badal’s insight into the minds of prisoners.
The reporter is a relieved man now — he tries to put on a smile in between good-luck calls. But a meeting with lawyers beckons. The case is far from over, and the fear of what will happen next is palpable.