Ryan case: Despite release, freedom still elusive for conductor Ashok
Ashok Kumar, the 42-year-old bus conductor who was released on bail on Wednesday, said he did not know that someone else was also arrested in connection with the Ryan murder case as he was not allowed to interact with other jail inmates and had no source of news in jail.
Kumar, who walked free on Wednesday, said he still feels like he is behind bars as he is not able to come out of his house and gaze at the open sky due to the presence of a posse of mediapersons and villagers outside his house.
Opening out about the alleged torture that he was subjected to in police custody, Kumar said he feared the same treatment when the CBI sleuths questioned him on September 24. He said he was offered food, but he was too traumatised to eat.
“I was hungry and the food was tempting. I wanted to eat as I didn’t have a proper meal since being arrested. But I feared being assaulted and tortured in the same manner as the Gurgaon police if I take the meal. I felt if I remained on empty stomach, the CBI might spare me,” Kumar said.
“Later, they told me that they had spent ₹250 for that thali, which I passed up,” Kumar said.
Kumar was told by CBI investigators to take look at the juvenile accused apprehended in the case, as he was lodged in the same corridor of the agency’s headquarters in New Delhi.
“I was not aware of any other arrest in the case. The boy was standing on the other side and gazed at me. I had never seen him earlier and couldn’t help wonder why the boy was looking at me. The officials then called me inside and said if I knew the boy. I said I didn’t. They then told me not to worry as I would be out of jail soon,” Kumar said.
During his 24-hour custody, Kumar was questioned several times by CBI officials and was also taken to the school. He said that an official from Bhondsi police station also visited him in civil dress.
“After a heated argument with me, the police officer left the room and CBI officials asked me to narrate the entire sequence of events on the day of the murder,” Kumar said.
“The CBI officers also summoned Harpal, the gardener (at Ryan school). They first questioned him alone and then we were grilled together,” Kumar said.
“On Tuesday, I couldn’t wait to reach home after learning that I had been granted bail. I waited till 9pm, but later got to know that the security bond documents were not furnished and hence, I won’t be to go home that day. I couldn’t sleep all night. I was restless as there was this gnawing fear that I might never get out of jail,” Kumar said wiping tears from his eyes.
“On Wednesday, I got up late but did not take a bath, as I was depressed. I lay on the floor wondering if my hope of release would be dashed. But my numberdar (a jail staff) assured me that I would be out soon,” Kumar said.
While Kumar was getting ready to walk out of jail, the staff informed him that hundreds of people were waiting to welcome him outside.
“When I walked out, I saw my father and hugged him. I was dying to meet my mother, children and wife and asked my lawyer to take me home. However, since there were mediapersons all around, I was taken to my cousin’s place first,” Kumar said.
Recalling his days in Bhondsi jail, Kumar said initially he was scared and could not sleep. He said there was no fan in his cell and he was not given any bedsheet nor offered spoon while having food. He said there was no switch in his cell as the police feared he might commit suicide.
Kumar said he was not allowed to interact with other inmates and also wasn’t allowed to move out.
“I was told keep a distance of five feet while talking to fellow inmates be especially wary of a group of boys who had attacked some inmates with blades. The incident left several injured,” Kumar said.
Kumar now wants to lead a normal life and spend time with his two sons.
“I am thankful to god that my husband is back home safe and I can talk to him again. He is not keeping well and has been advised complete rest. He is not comfortable talking about his days in Bhondsi jail. We desperately want to move on, but people crowding outside our home aren’t allowing us to do that,” Mamta said.