On Saturday morning, just after the country’s tricolour had been hoisted, Mohammed Qasim (31) and Mohammed Abdullah (36), clad in their whites began humming ‘Aye merey pyare watan, tujh pe dil qurbaan’.
Minutes later, as their unrehearsed vocal chords hit the crescendo, hundreds others standing to attention in the open-air auditorium—where the celebrations to mark the country’s 63rd Independence Day were being held at the high security Tihar jail—were singing with them.
Many, like the singing duo, were in tears.
Abdullah and Qasim like the others singing the 60’s bollywood hit number, are inmates at the jail.
But unlike most other participants in day’s gaiety, the two are Pakistani nationals.
Abdullah is an alleged narcotics dealer convicted for 10 years while Qasim is a terror suspect allegedly involved in a 2005 Delhi blast currently an under trial.
According to jail officials, the Pakistani duo was among the 80-odd inmates belonging to the neighboring country at the jail who participated with cheer and vigour in the I-Day celebration.
“From practicing singing patriotic numbers, arranging flower petals for the unfurling of the flag and helping in other organizational details, these Pakistanis showed as much enthusiasm as the rest of the Indian prisoners,” said a jail source who requested anonymity as he is not authorized to talk.
The prison complex’s ten jails wore a festive look on the day with small paper tricolors and rose-petals dotting its cells, auditoriums and other built spaces.
The inmates were treated to a generous lunch—comprising of pulao, matar paneer, halwa and laddoo—and were shown an old bollywood movie, Upkaar starring Manoj Kumar.
The day also marked a bounty for Indian inmates in general.
“As a special gesture from the prison’s Director General BK Gupta, around 14 prisoners involved in minor offences were released today,” said jail spokesperson Sunil Gupta. “Besides, jail-terms of around 600 other inmates were remitted on account of their good behaviour.”
The jail-term’s remission, Gupta said when asked, was between “45 days to 15 days given to men convicted for upto five years”.