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India India's Oldest Prisoner Walks Out Of Jail At 108

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
June 18, 2011

India's oldest prisoner walks out of jail at 108

Rajiv Srivastava, TNN | Jun 18, 2011, 12.27am IST

LUCKNOW: In 1987, when he was 84, Brij Bihari went on a killing spree. All his life, he had cherished one dream: to be mahant of Maharajganj's Jagannath temple. Towards that end, he had lived a life of celibacy, remained a staunch vegetarian, prayed every day. But when that didn't happen, in ripe old age, he plotted to kill. Four people were dead when he was through.

Until Friday, Bihari, now 108 years old as per prison records, had been incarcerated in Gorakhpur jail from the time of his arrest. At 7.15pm, the country's oldest prisoner was freed.

He was shifted to Gorakhpur district hospital a few days ago when he fell critically ill and doctors said his pulse rate was sinking.

Since his conviction along with 15 others in December 2009, Bihari had been alternating between the jail and district hospitals, getting treated for one ailment or another. Mindful of his age and on humanitarian grounds, jail authorities put him on permanent hospital duty.

In October 2010, the office of Maharajganj's district magistrate sent a clemency petition to the Uttar Pradesh governor for setting Bihari free.

On May 26 this year, Bihari and 10 others held for the four murders were granted bail by the Allahabad high court. But there was the issue of who would bail him out. His closest relatives, his nephews, were also in jail for the same crime. On Friday, Avnish Pandey, the son of his jailed nephew Ghanshyam Pandey, furnished the bail bond, with help from two locals, and ensured the old man's freedom.

Ahead of his release, Bihari told TOI his mind still wandered to June 15, 1987. Bihari's target was Bhagwant Pandey's son Ramanujdas, mahant of the Jagannath temple at the time.

Devotees had overruled Brij Bihari's appointment as mahant and Ramanujdas got the job instead. So, Brij and 15 others killed him; three others also died in the fight.

Jail inmates knew Bihari's crime was brutal, but he got sympathy because of his age: fellow inmates called him Baba. After he was admitted to district hospital on June 14, Bihari was helped by other patients with his daily ablutions, others ensured he got a steady supply of rice and pulses as he could not chew chapatis.

Bihari said he repented his craving for the mahant's job and his act of revenge. He wanted to see his village before he died and was praying to the same God he had killed for, 24 years ago.




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