Wrongfully convicted man freed after 24 years in jail

Published On: August 18, 2021 02:14 PM NPT By: Dinesh Subedi

ROLPA, August 18: The village seemed bright since early morning. Soon, the villagers started playing the trumpets. Locals were gathered around. While some were playing musical instruments, others were waiting to welcome someone with colorful garlands in their hands. A remote village in eastern Rolpa, Jailwang, had a different glowing vibe. Narendra Roka, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Indian court in a false case of murder 24 years ago, was returning home.

On April 29, the villagers kept Narendra's family at the house of Ash Bahadur Pun, chairman of Sunchahari Rural Municipality. "We were not allowed to go home. The villagers were preparing to welcome us. So, we were asked to stay at the chairman’s home”, said Shila, Narendra’s daughter. “We got to visit our home only the next day. All the people of the village gathered and greeted him with garlands and music.” The villagers welcomed and congratulated Narendra wholeheartedly.

In the year 1997/98, the Maiost conflict had severely affected Rolpa district. Narenda was suffering from chest pain and treatment at the sub-health post in the village did not work. With the help of a relative, he went to Simla, India for a check-up. On January 19, 1998, Narendra was sunbathing and was asleep. But when he woke up, he found himself on a hospital bed, surrounded by the police. He had lost his front tooth and his head was covered with 16 stitches.

While he was asleep, his aunt, Dunthi Roka who was known as Kamaladevi was killed. He too was severely beaten. He was admitted to the hospital on January 19 and was discharged on January 27 and taken into police custody. On the charge of killing his aunt, he was sent to Kaithu jail in Shimla.

On August 1, 1998, the Simla court convicted Narendra of murder and sentenced him to lifetime imprisonment. The high court endorsed the decision of the district court and sentenced him to life in prison on September 8, 2000. On March 11, 2002, after the Supreme Court, too, endorsed the old verdict, Narendra was sent to Kanda Jail in Simla. Though he completed 14 years in prison, the special appeal failed in 2012. However, he was released from prison on April 13, 2021, following a special appeal to the Supreme Court.

Dhungi Roka was stunned  after receiving the news that Narendra was released from jail through Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun's Chief Personal Secretary, Shuk Bahadur Roka. This was the happiest day in her life. She had visited her husband in the Indian jail a few times. Sheila Roka, who is 25 years old, had last seen her father when she was one year old. As she hadn’t got her father’s love in her childhood, she was really excited to meet him. “Tears came to my eyes when I got the news of my father being released,” she said. On April 19, she finally got to meet her father.

"We went to Sunauli with my mother and neighbor. When we met each other, both of my parents got emotional.” According to Shila, villagers welcomed Narendra into the village. Next day, the family gave a feast to the villagers to celebrate this reunion.

Meeting the son

Though Narendra got a chance to talk to his wife once or twice when she visited him in the jail, he never got an opportunity to meet his children. While spending those years in jail, he even forgot his mother tongue. His wife, however, spoke only the Kham language. One day, a young man visited Narendra in jail. The young man was no other than his son, who was just four years old when he last saw him. His son had joined the Indian Army and had gone to the jail to visit him.

According to Prem Kumari Budha, his daughter-in-law, Narendra stays at home confused. “He cooks and usually is lost in his own world. He mixes Nepali, Hindi and Kham language when he speaks.” The villagers have always known him as an honest and straightforward man.

Narendra spent 24 years of his life in jail even though he had committed no crime. He is now 50 years old and hasn’t yet figured out what to do with his life. There is still no concrete data on how many innocent Nepalis like him are still imprisoned in India and other countries.


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