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Grueling three years for Jahalam’s wife Kalpana

  • Published at 11:08 am February 5th, 2019
File photo of Jahalam with his wife and daughter at his home in Tangail’s Nagarpur upazila on Monday; February 04, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

Kalpana did not surrender to circumstance, but fought to free her husband from false charges

Jahalam, an ordinary jute mill worker from Tangail, had spent three years in prison after being wrongfully accused of graft by Sonali Bank Limited and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

 After his incarceration, Jahalam’s wife Kalpana Akhter and his baby daughter Chandni had no one to look after them. Kalpana did not surrender to circumstance, but fought to free her husband from the false charges.

 However, she racked up loans amounting to Tk5 lakh in her bid to free Jahalam.

 Kalpana sent her three-year old baby daughter to her grandmother, and got a job at a factory owned by Pran in Narsingdi. She survived with her daughter on a meager salary of Tk5,000, and sent money to Jahalam in the prison.

Also Read- Emotional reception at home for Jahalam

 Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune at her home in Tangail, Kalpana told of her misery: “I borrowed around Tk5 lakh from various NGOs (non-government organizations) and local people. We might have to sell our land to pay off the debt. This land is our home and our last hope.”

 “I am paying weekly installments to at least ten NGOs. Ever since Jahalam became unemployed, our family is living hand to mouth. I am urging the government to help us get through this difficult situation,” she said. 

 Describing his dreadful experience, Jahalam said: “I was sentenced to 384 years of imprisonment in 33 graft cases filed under false charges by the commission. I lost three years from my life, and each day of my wrongful imprisonment was unbearable.”

 “They forced me into hard labour inside the prison. I am forever grateful to media for unearthing the truth about my imprisonment that subsequently led to my freedom,” he said. 

 Adding that he wants the culprit behind the graft to face trial, Jahalam also said: “I want the ACC officials responsible for my wrongful imprisonment to face judgment, so that no other innocent person suffers the same fate I did.”

 Stranger to his own daughter 

Jahalam’s daughter was only three years old when he was sent to prison, and now that he back to his family, Chandni cannot recognize her father.

 Jahalam had to reintroduce himself repeatedly to his daughter after his release in early hours of Monday. 

“Chandni held her father dear when she was three years old. But after Jahalam returned from prison, she could not recognize him. She got along with her father after some time,” Kalpana said.

Also Read- ACC forms committee to investigate wrongful incarceration of Jahalam

 Jahalam added: “Because of the commission’s mistake, I was imprisoned for three years. Officials concerned did not listen to a word I said, and did not visit my home to investigate even once.”

 “I missed my wife and daughter. I am content beyond words after finally reuniting with them,” he said. 

Accused of embezzling Tk18 crore

Jahalam was arrested on February 6, 2016, after he was mistaken for Abu Salek, who was the original accused in 33 cases that ACC had filed in 2014 over loan fraud and the embezzlement of Tk18.5 crore from Sonali Bank Limited.

When the ACC sent for Salek, the summons went to Jahalam, who in turn met with officials of the corruption watchdog and insisted that he was not Salek.

He also told the ACC that the photo used to open the Sonali Bank account was not his either. 

However, the bank’s officials still identified him as Salek, and the jute mill worker was eventually arrested in Ghorashal following commission’s green light. 

On May 27 of the same year, he was transferred to Dhaka Central Jail 2.

Despite appearing in front of the court many times since, Jahalam did not receive bail. Identifying Jahalam as Salek in 26 of the 33 cases, ACC submitted charge-sheets, and the cases started being processed in court. 

Last year, several media reports brought the matter of Jahalam's innocence to the ACC's attention, after which ACC investigated the matter further. 

Upon further investigation, the ACC found Jahalam's claims of innocence to be true. 

After a legal process, High Court passed a ruling over the illegality of his imprisonment and directed the jail authorities to immediately release Jahalam.

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