A Nepali man was arrested on murder charges in India in 1980 and sat in jail for decades without a trial. Rights activists say Durga Prasad Timsina’s ordeal highlights the grim reality of pretrial detainees in India.
Durga Prasad Timsina with a member of the West Bengal Radio Club
Durga Prasad Timsina had lost all hope of ever seeing his mother or going back to his village in Nepal after awaiting trial on a murder charge for 41 years.
He was moved from one jail to another across West Bengal, and finally ended up at a correctional center near Kolkata, where no one could understand his native language, Nepali.
Timsina could not speak Bengali at all, and barely knew Hindi: the two languages essential to get by in that part of the eastern Indian state.
But, against all odds, the day finally came last month when Timsina walked out of the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home.
Timsina was accompanied by officials from the Nepali consulate in Kolkata and members of the West Bengal Radio Club — a collective of amateur radio operators — who had been instrumental in securing his freedom.
The case has shed light on the plight of people awaiting trial in Indian jails, many of whom are imprisoned for longer than their sentences would have been if they were convicted.
‘Celebrations for days’ after release
“We are all overjoyed to have him back home. There were celebrations for days after he came back to the village,” Timsina’s cousin Prakash Chandra told DW.
“Sadly, the time in jail has left him traumatized. His hands and legs are shaky; he can hardly eat and is also suffering from a number of physical ailments,” he said.
Timsina is being treated at a local hospital, and the provincial government will take care of the medical expenses, Chandra said, adding that he was not in a condition to talk to people.
Why was he arrested?
Timsina left his village in a remote region of eastern Nepal in search of a job at 20 years old. In 1980, he went to the scenic Indian town of Darjeeling, wedged between Nepal and Bhutan.
There Timsina met a man who promised him a job with the Indian army. However, according to Chandra, the man ended up framing Timsina for committing a murder.
Timsina says he was falsely identified as a man named Dipak Jaishi and arrested by police.
He told a crowd of reporters soon after his release that he was innocent, which his family has maintained since he was arrested.
“No one ever came forward with any evidence. They just took Durga Prasad and put him in jail,” Chandra said.
The name change, he said, was because of a filing error by police.
“The people who knew him in Darjeeling knew only of his nickname, Dupat, which somehow became Dipak on the police charge sheet,” Chandra said. “His surname was registered as Jaishi, which is actually the name of our community.”