Indian boy who spent a year in a Bangladesh jail reunited with family

Indian boy who spent a year in a Bangladesh jail reunited with family

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Gede Checkpost (Indo-Bangladesh border):  After a year, happiness for the family of five-year-old Ariful Sheikh. The boy, who was in a Bangladesh jail since April last year along with his grandparents, was released today and reunited with his parents at the Gede checkpost on the Indo-Bangladesh border.

And the boy knows where he has been. "I was in jail all this while... in Bangladesh. I had three friends in the jail and they used to give us eggs, fried potato, rice and roti," Ariful tells NDTV, his father holding him in his arms.

It will be a while since the boy reaches home from the border checkpost, but Ariful is already excited about it. "I want to go home and play and study and eat. I want to become a policeman when I grow," he says.

Ariful's father Safiul Islam is happy that he is finally seeing his son. "I am very happy and I thank everyone for their help and support," says his mother Kajol Rekha Bibi.

The boy, along with his grandparents, reached the Gede checkpost on the Indian side a little before noon today.

After being handed over by Bangladesh, they was taken by Murshidabad police for formalities. They were then handed over to an NGO called Masoom which has pushed for Ariful's release for the last few months.

Masoom's Kiriti Roy says there are hundreds of Indians in Bangladesh jails and hundreds of Bangladeshis in Indian jails who are stuck despite having served their sentence. Such prisoners are called Jaan Khala.

Ariful and his grandparents who hail from West Bengal's Murshidabad district were picked up when they crossed the Indo-Bangla border last April to meet some relatives in Bangladesh.

Hachimuddin Sheikh, his wife Mafroza Khatun and grandson Ariful were held on April 15 last year, while they were entering Bangladesh through the Piyarpur border in Doulatpur district.

The grandparents were sentenced to two months' imprisonment and since no one else was accompanying them, Ariful was sent to jail with them. Last year in June, they even completed their two month sentence. But it's taken 10 months to confirm their identities as Indian nationals and release them.

After human rights activists and the government of India condemned their wrongful detention and demanded their release, Bangladesh's Ministry of Home Affairs issued a release and repatriation order on April 15.

Hopefully, these bad memories will be short-lived and Ariful will start living a normal life again. But this five-year-old has become a symbol of hope for all the people who are incarcerated on the wrong side of the border for years for no fault of their own.

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