This is a story of drugs, a chase, and an unfortunate victim who seems to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. For nearly six months now, 22 year-old Ankit Kumar, a national and international wrestler, has not seen the outside of the Patiala jail. His crime? He hitched a ride.
Travelling from the Guru Hanuman Akhara in Delhi to the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, Ankit got a bus to Pipli in Kurukshetra on July 5 and then begged a ride from the driver of an Accent to Rajpura in the evening.
What he didn't know was that the car was being tagged by the Punjab Police and shortly after, the car (UP-11-J-6715), carrying 200kg of poppy husk, was flagged down and its occupants, the driver Sachin Sharma, and Ankit, arrested.
The intriguing part here is that Ankit's application for bail was dismissed by a lower court as there was nothing on record to prove that he had taken a lift. Yet, Sharma, the driver, had submitted an affidavit dated September 20, stating that Ankit had hitched a ride near Kurukshetra.
On Monday, Ankit's bail application was admitted in the Punjab & Haryana High Court and the court has asked the Punjab administration to file a reply by January 30.
At the very least, this means a month and a half in jail for the young sportsman and a practical end to his dreams. Ankit, who comes from an impoverished Uttarakhand family, represented India in the junior Asian championships in 2003 and had won number of national-level medals, which got him a job as a constable in the Uttarakhand Police under the sports quota. That job is currently under suspension.
He didn't even have the money to hire an advocate but then his seniors from the Rai Sports School got together and Puneet Bali, a former Haryana Ranji player and a senior lawyer, is fighting his case free of cost.
Bali is appalled at the situation. That's the question Ankit's been asking for six months now.