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Love has no bar: Serving life sentences, Hindu man, Muslim woman marry in West Bengal

Both are murder convicts serving life sentences at Berhampore Central Correctional Home in West Bengal’s Berhampore town.

india Updated: May 23, 2018 18:53 IST
Sreyasi Pal
Sreyasi Pal
Berhampore, Hindustan Times
Marriage,Life sentence,Jail
Buddhadeb and Runa met a few years ago while acting for a play directed by Pradip Bhattacharya, a well-known face in Bengali cinema and theatre. They have travelled with Bhattacharya to several cities across India for the plays. (File photo)

Buddhadeb and Runa Bibi fell in love while rehearsing for Bengali poet and Nobel Literature Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore’s plays.

And, the Hindu man and Muslim woman got married on Tuesday under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, at a hall where the actors of the Berhampore Repertory Theatre practise for their plays.

Their love story, however, is not ordinary as both are murder convicts serving life sentences at Berhampore Central Correctional Home in West Bengal’s Berhampore town.

Buddhadeb, the 38-year-old resident of Labhpur in Birbhum, clobbered a man to death when he saw him beating his father. Runa Bibi from Jalangi in Murshidabad district killed the daughter of her brother-in-law in 2004 within two months of her wedding. She was only 13 when she was married off.

Her husband’s family abandoned her for the crime and her parents were so poor that they could not hire a lawyer to shift her case to the Juvenile Justice Board. Her husband divorced her after she was convicted.

Buddhadeb, too, was married before and his wife left him after he committed the murder.

Buddhadeb and Runa met a few years ago while acting for a play directed by Pradip Bhattacharya, a well-known face in Bengali cinema and theatre. They have travelled with Bhattacharya to several cities across India for the plays.

“Buddhadeb and Runa have been acting in plays under my direction for about 12 years. They have played important roles in three Tagore’s plays ‘Tasher Desh’, ‘Tota Kahini’ and ‘Rakta Karabi’,” Bhattacharya said.

They have to thank senior police officer BD Sharma, who launched an initiative to reform prisons in the state in 2005-06. Sharma, who was the inspector general (prison) then, even took the decision to allow convicts and undertrials to take part in plays.

Those chosen to act rehearse regularly inside the prison and are released on parole when the plays are staged outside.

“They committed the crimes in a moment’s impulse. But they are now completely reformed. However, I do not have an idea when they fell for each other,” Bhattacharya said.

The wedding was planned to be held on March 27, which is observed as the International Theatre Day and they submitted an application for parole. But it had to be deferred after the sudden death of one of Runa Bibi’s relatives.

BD Sharma, special adviser to the state prisons department, said if inmates want to get married they don’t need to file an application with the authorities.

“Long-term convicts get periodic paroles and they get married at that time. But if both the groom and the bride are inmates of a jail, they will need parole at the same time. In that case, they may mention marriage for simultaneous parole,” Sharma said.

Runa Bibi’s elder brother and aunt came to witness their wedding and from Buddhadeb’s side his mother and brother arrived. The workers of the theatre group arranged a small dinner on the occasion.

“Baba (Pradip Bhattacharya) has changed the lives of many people. If he wasn’t around, our marriage would not have been possible. He has given us a new life today,” said the couple.

“A man and a woman are getting married. Their religious identities are not important,” Buddhadeb and Runa said on Tuesday during a very brief interaction with the media after they got married.

They also refused to reveal their surnames.

“You can call it a result of Tagore’s teachings,” said Bhattacharya.

The couple will be on parole for 10 days before they return to their respective cells in the prison. Some activists are trying to help the couple shift to the Lalgola open prison where they can live together.

“If they want to stay in the open prison, a board will be set up to consider the case. They have to apply for it,” TR Bhutia, superintendent of Berhampore Central Correctional Home, said.

First Published: May 23, 2018 18:52 IST