The Muslim men pooled in money to be able to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 to secure the release of the Hindu prisoners languishing for want of money in the district jail. They had been lodged in jail on charges of petty crime like ticketless travel. Unable to cough up the fine to make reparation for their misdeeds, the men were serving an additional sentence. Once the money was paid, the 15 men walked out free birds.
Outside the jail, the Muslims who paid for their release welcomed them into freedom with a warm embrace. As the 15 men stepped out of jail on Wednesday evening, there were smiles and tears all around.
One of the inmates, Nand Kishore, had served out the period of his sentence for ticketless travel, but was not released as he failed to pay a Rs1,000-fine. But as he left the jail premises and strode towards home, Haji Yasin Qureshi and his friends, all Muslims, hugged him and walked along.
Qureshi shrugged off the effusive gratitude that the men showed him and his friends, and said it is just the Almighty who needs to be thanked. He told the 15 men that they should swear never to repeat their mistakes.
The Muslim men had also made arrangements for Nand Kishore’s travel back to his native village. He was given a small sum as “pocket money” too. His eyes moist, Kishore bid the Muslim youth adieu as jail staffers watched, awe-struck.
Among the others to taste freedom were Ajay Kumar, Kishan Sagar, Pappu and Tilak. All of them were warmly embraced as they emerged from the jail, all deeply moved by the gesture of their benefactors who had come to their aid in a time of crisis.
Qureshi, who led the group that collected funds for the release of the men, told TOI on Thursday, “When we learnt of their plight from jail authorities, we decided that we should do what we could. We are never guided by the feeling that our efforts should be directed only towards members of our own community. We believe that if we help in releasing a man from captivity, Allah will bless us. Moreover, what better occasion than a time when there is all this talk about who should live in this country and who should leave.”
Haji Mohd Anees, a businessman, who too had contributed to the release of the men, said, “Sahib yeh to hamara watan hai aur Hindu hamare bhai hain. Hum yahin paida huwey hai aur yahin khaak mein milengey” (This is our land too, Hindus are our brothers. We were born here, we will be buried here and mix with the soil here.)
BR Maurya, superintendent of the Bareilly district jail, said, “The 15 inmates were charged with petty crimes. Some were arrested on apprehension of breach of peace. They were serving out sentences ranging from 6 months to 10 years. The majority of them had served out the full sentence, but could not pay the fine imposed on them by the court.”