A sudden gust of wind howled previous the partitions of Kashimpur Central Jail. A nor’wester adopted. The sky grew darkish and introduced rain pouring down, a lot to the aid of a number of the prisoners.
One of many prisoners was Khadijatul Kubra, a Jagannath College (JnU) scholar imprisoned for months on fees filed below the Digital Safety Act (DSA) – later changed by the Cyber Safety Act (CSA) in September 2023. Khadija was out within the open close to the mango bushes behind the jail partitions.
‘Happiness is selecting mangoes in your uncle’s land on a stormy day’ – reads Palli Kabi Jasimuddin’s common rhyme; ingrained within the thoughts of each Bangladeshi. And so Khadija, below the mango tree, grew to become exuberant as inexperienced mangoes fell to the bottom by the drive of the robust winds.
She collected some mangoes, went again to her ward and distributed them amongst her inmates.
This might have been her solely blissful event on this interval of nightmare in her life, besides that she had a robust inmate named Shamima Nur Papia, a former Jubo Mohila League chief, in Kashimpur jail at the moment.
Because the inmates picked the mangoes earlier than Papia got here out to bathe within the rain, she was enraged and grabbed mangoes from different inmates. Papia’s prowess within the jail was one thing you didn’t mess with.
Papia had been arrested together with her husband Mofizur Rahman Sumon, a former Chhatra League chief, by RAB in 2020. In response to RAB, she was the ringleader of a gang engaged in smuggling counterfeit notes, unlawful arms, medication and a prostitution racket. They had been sentenced to 27 years in jail in October of that 12 months.
On that day, Papiya referred to as on Khadija on a loudspeaker to return the mangoes. Papia harassed her regardless of Khadija repeatedly telling her that she had distributed the mangoes amongst different inmates already, and had no real interest in consuming them herself.
“Every thing within the jail was below Papia’s command. However she did not like me for causes past my information,” Khadija instructed The Enterprise Customary, recalling her days in jail. [Papia was later transferred to another jail after she reportedly tortured an inmate, which led to the latter being hospitalised. The prison staff were also replaced.]
Khadija, in the meantime, had been arrested in August 2022 on DSA circumstances filed in October 2020, when she was solely 17, in accordance with her household. The Kalabagan and New Market police pressed fees towards Khadija for ‘tarnishing the nation’s picture’ and ‘spreading anti-government statements on-line’ as a result of she hosted a webinar the place a visitor speaker made ‘contentious’ remarks.
A BBC Bangla report talked about that as per the FIR, she was accused of getting violated sections 25, 29, 31 and 35 of the DSA. Amongst them, part 31 is non-bailable. Any one that commits an offence below part 25 could face imprisonment of three years and a wonderful of Tk3 lakh. Offences below part 29 carry three-year jail phrases and Tk5 lakh fines, whereas offences below part 31 carry jail phrases of seven years and fines of Tk5 lakh.
Khadija had no information about these circumstances until 27 August 2022 round 9 pm on the night time when the police knocked on her door and mentioned she needed to go to the police station with them.
“It got here as an absolute shock to me and my household,” Khadija recalled. “Even within the police van, I requested them how lengthy it will take, as a result of I had an task the subsequent morning within the college.”
That night, Khadija alongside together with her elder sister, had been celebrating the birthday of a scholar she tutored. After she returned residence from the party, her world turned the wrong way up – she was arrested, suffered a panic assault on the police station, was hospitalised and later taken to Kashimpur jail in Gazipur.
Subsequently, she languished in jail for over 14 months; her bail petitions had been denied a number of instances
After her bail utility was rejected twice by the judicial court docket, the excessive court docket granted her bail on 16 February. The chamber court docket nevertheless suspended the Excessive Court docket’s granted bail after a plea from the state. The state get together’s utility was despatched to the common bench of the Appellate Division for listening to.
Then Khadija filed an utility for the withdrawal of the Chamber Court docket’s suspension order. Each these circumstances had been heard within the Appellate Division on 10 July, when listening to was adjourned for 4 months and Khadija’s bail remained suspended.
Lastly, the agenda returned to the Appellate Division on 16 November when the state’s enchantment was dismissed.
And he or she suffered all these months in jail – some days had been spent within the condemned cell – with a stone in her kidney, Khadija mentioned, an ailment which requires critical medical care.
Fourteen months and 23 days later, as Khadija recounts, she lastly walked out of jail on 20 November and attended her fourth-semester examination.
A scholar of political science at JnU, after shedding a 12 months of her educational life in jail, Khadija is now taking a look at her future stuffed with worry.
“My mom will not let me go alone anyplace, even to the rooftop of our home,” Khadija mentioned. “I could not even collect the braveness to publish a thanks notice on Fb to many individuals on the market who campaigned for my launch.” Her elder sister Sirajum Munira locked her Fb account from public view to “not invite any additional bother”.
At one level of the dialog, Khadija requested this reporter if we might relay that she was “grateful to all of the journalists, human rights defenders, college students of varied universities – particularly Jahangirnagar College college students” for she believes they fought for her rights.
Khadija, nevertheless, did not have a lot to say about Jagannath College the place she research, as a result of her mates, though lively in her assist in the beginning, later restrained themselves in worry of repercussions from the college authority.
Whereas Khadija’s bail petitions had been being repeatedly denied, the kidney affected person inside was tilling the soil, chopping grass, cleansing and interesting in varied different labour-intensive work that inmates do. This was taking a toll on her physique. She was rising weaker daily whereas her household continued functions for her proper to medical therapy.
“No matter occurred mentally… occurred. However my bodily state is worse. There’s a stone in my proper kidney and a cyst in my left kidney. Folks’s backbones are somewhat curved, however mine has straightened. So I can not interact in any labour-intensive work. I can not lean over,” Khadija mentioned.
Round March 2023, greater than six months after her arrest, she was taken for prognosis by the jail authority with the supreme court docket’s permission.
“I do not know what the jail authorities did, however they confirmed me as fully wholesome. They examined my urine after which they took me to ultrasonography the place they discovered my bladder was empty. I used to be fasting that day and had not been instructed to maintain my bladder full. I broke my quick instantly.”
She went on, “I do not know what they blamed me for, however they despatched me to the condemned cell [where inmates awaiting execution are kept in solitary confinement]. I needed to stay with loss of life row convicts for 5 days [in late March].”
“After they gave me that clear invoice of well being, I needed to work very onerous on this state. I needed to lower soil [and] grass, do home cleansing, water the bushes, carry cauldrons stuffed with rice/dal cooked for 30 to 40, atop my head, and stroll up three to 4 flooring. I did all of the labour-intensive work.
“I instructed them that I used to be sick, however no one listened to me,” she mentioned.
She tried to stitch kantha and do different handicraft work to keep away from guide labour, however due to figures like Papia and different jail employees ill-disposed to her, stitching and handicraft choices had been taken away from her.
“Sooner or later Papia raided our cell and took my cotton and yarn. They took others’ yarn as effectively. She then interrogated me about why I had a lot yarn. My struggling continued till the jailors had been modified. The brand new employees had been supportive,” Khadija mentioned.
Though Khadija walks free now, her authorized burdens are removed from over. In the course of the interview on 27 November, she mentioned there is a listening to on 30 November, and she or he does not know what’s sooner or later.
“I’m nonetheless tense. The case shouldn’t be over. My lawyer would have the ability to say what awaits me sooner or later. I’m nonetheless scared that what I would say once more would land me in bother… I’m additionally frightened about what the decision will likely be,” she mentioned.
Amid this darkish, gloomy and nightmarish chapter of her life, Khadija has discovered a silver lining – her household. She rediscovered the significance of her household – her mom and sister – who risked every part to save lots of her.
Her sister Sirajum Munira recounted, “We as a household could not be collectively for 2 Eids. Our life got here to a standstill. It took us days to discover a lawyer as no one needed to take our case.”
Although Khadija is out of jail now, Munira mentioned they’re nonetheless tense and fearful.
“Her case shouldn’t be over,” Munira mentioned.
“I can not describe in phrases what my household went by means of,” Khadija mentioned. “I used to prioritise mates however did not take care of my father and mom. You understand what occurs to youngsters. They’ve tantrums and do not like home guidelines. I had that in me. I might shut my mom out when she tried to say one thing.
“However after I was in jail, I used to be screaming for my mom on a regular basis. I say, due to Allah, perhaps I wanted to go there for this life lesson. On the finish of the day, my mom and my sister did a lot for me… I’m so indebted to my sister,” Khadija mentioned.