For the first time in the country, two life convicts in a West Bengal prison want to get married.Buddhadeb Mete and Runa Bibi are serving life sentences in Baharampur Jail, which also has a women’s section. While Buddadeb who hails from a small village in Birbhum district has spent 12 years in jail, Runa Bibi from Malda has served time for 10 years.
Though male and female prisoners is forbidden from interacting, they came to know each other through drama.
Around seven years ago the Baharampur Prison authorities, as part of a reform programme, started encouraging prisoners to take part in drama.
While Buddhadeb became a “Prince” in “Tasher Desh” (Land of Cards), Runa’s role was as “Nandini” in a drama, “Jakhyapuri”.
Though they acted in dramas, none of them had ever read any novel or even Bengali literature. Buddhadeb who could sing was encouraged by a senior jail official Pradip Bhattacharya.
These dramas are usually staged outside prison in different parts of the state.During one such show Buddhadeb met Runa seven years ago. Gradually they became intimate and fell in love. They approached the jail authorities saying they wanted to get married. While Buddhadeb could write, Runa was an illiterate but started to learn the basic Bengali alphabets. They began exchanging letters and then submitted a formal application to the jail Superintendent.
The prison officials were stunned as according to prison regulations there is no scope for a married couple to live together inside a jail. However, for their good record while in prison the authorities were eager to help them.
The only option was to shift them to the open reforms home at Lalgola in Mushidabad district.
According to Bhattacharya, “Jail does mean a life behind bars and in shackles as many think. This is basically a reform home. I felt very happy when I heard that two adults wanted to get married. They belong to different regions and if they could get married, it will send a good message to the outside world. We forwarded their case to the state jail department.”