This is a story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For nearly six months now, Ankit Kumar (22), an international-level wrestler, has been behind bars at Patiala jail. His crime? He hitched a ride in the wrong car.
Travelling from Delhi's Guru Hanuman Akhara to the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, Ankit first took a bus and then hitched a ride from the driver of an Accent. What he didn't know was that the car was being tagged by Punjab police and was soon flagged down. Its driver Sachin Sharma and Ankit were arrested after 200 kg of poppy husk was found in the vehicle on July 5.
Ankit's bail application was dismissed, as there was no record to prove that he had hitched a ride. Sharma, however, had submitted an affidavit stating that Ankit had taken a lift.
On Monday, Ankit's bail application was admitted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and it asked the Punjab administration to file a reply by January 30.
At the very least, this means a month-and-a-half more in prison for the young sportsman and a practical end to his ambitions. Ankit, who comes from an impoverished Uttarakhand family, represented India in the junior Asian championships in 2003 and had won several national medals, which got him a job as a constable in the Uttarakhand police. That job is currently under suspension.
Since Ankit didn't have any money to hire an advocate, Puneet Bali, former Haryana Ranji player and his senior from Rai Sports School, is fighting his case free of cost.
Bali is appalled: "When the driver of the car submitted an affidavit stating that Ankit had taken a lift, on what basis has the police framed a case?"
That's what Ankit's been asking for six months now.