‘I Can’t Get Those 10 Years Back,’ Laments JNU Student Acquitted After a Decade in Jail

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Hem Mishra, released from prison last month reflects on lost time and the importance of advocacy against injustice.

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, Hem Mishra, finds himself at a crossroads after spending over a decade behind bars, reflecting on lost time and contemplating his future amidst a call for social justice.

Mishra, along with Delhi University teacher G.N. Saibaba and four others, faced allegations of Naxal links, leading to their conviction under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Despite maintaining their innocence, Mishra, Saibaba, and three others were sentenced to life imprisonment.

After a prolonged legal battle, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court acquitted the accused recently, marking the end of a tumultuous chapter. Speaking about his release, Mishra expressed mixed emotions, saying, “I can’t get those 10 years back.”

Upon his release last month from Kolhapur prison, Mishra returned to his home in Vaishali, Ghaziabad, but the journey to normalcy remains uncertain. “I might disagree with the government on some things, that’s all. It is because of this difference that we were punished and forced to be behind bars for over a decade,” he said.

Asserting the importance of speaking out against injustices, Mishra emphasised the need for advocacy, regardless of the risks involved. “Even if it is a risk, we need to speak out,” he said, highlighting the significance of defending rights to prevent their erosion.

Expressing his aspirations, Mishra disclosed his desire to continue his studies. Having completed his third year of a Chinese language course at JNU before his arrest, Mishra now faces the task of determining his academic path. Recalling his educational journey, he shared insights into his past engagements with social issues at JNU, describing it as a vibrant environment for discourse and activism.

Mishra’s arrest in 2013 occurred when he was en route to meet doctor and social worker Prakash Amte in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli, where he intended to discuss health issues concerning Adivasi communities. Following his arrest, Mishra endured a tumultuous legal process, during which he was subjected to prolonged periods of detention and uncertainty.

Reflecting on his time in incarceration, Mishra recounted the challenges faced in the confines of Nagpur jail, where he spent a significant portion of his imprisonment time. Mishra says he found solace in books and newspapers, seizing the opportunity to learn Marathi and assist fellow inmates in language acquisition.

Hem Mishra’s family, including his mother Madhavi, expressed relief at his release but lamented the toll his ordeal took on their lives. Madhavi emphasised her son’s innocence, highlighting his advocacy for marginalised communities as the driving force behind his arrest.

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