Why Sanjay Dutt Is A Free Man And Septuagenarian Zaibunissa Kazi Is Still In Jail

25/02/2016 1:19 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt waves as he arrives at his residence in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007. Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt was released from prison Thursday after India's top court granted him bail pending an appeal against his conviction for possessing illegal weapons, an official said. (AP Photo/Gautam Singh)

Her name is not Sanjay Dutt.

That’s why we do not know who she wrote letters to from her jail cell. We do not hear if her daughter posts cute heartwarming messages on Instagram. Like “I’m so excited and thrilled for you, I love you, and I can’t wait to see you!”

There will be no touching stories about visiting her mother’s grave after release or the number of paper bags she made in jail or the friends who are setting their son's wedding dates in accordance with her release. We do not know if she had a one-on-one chat with Baba Ramdev like Dutt did. But then she didn’t meet the yoga guru at a Ganeshotsav celebration while out on parole and keep in touch the way Dutt did. And there will certainly be no chartered plane, no welcoming banners, no battery of journalists awaiting her in breathless excitement for those first moments after release photographs, no plans to write a book about her experiences.

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Sanjay Dutt leaving for Yerawada Jail following a 15-day furlough in May 2015.

As he dramatically saluted Yerwada Central Jail, with a khaki bag on his shoulders, did our Munnabhai remember Zaibunissa Anwar Kazi? Did any in the swarm of media covering the event ask him about her? Or was everyone too busy wanting to know where he would go first, what he would eat first, what film he would take up first? That’s news. The plight of a woman in her seventies, sitting in jail, is a buzz-kill.

Zaibunissa Anwar Kazi and Sanjay Dutt were basically convicted of the same crime – hoarding illegal weapons. Both also received the same quantum of punishment – five years. But Dutt was acquitted by the TADA court, Kazi was not. But their storylines are inextricably bound together. The bag of weapons she had held on to at Abu Salem’s request, without knowing what was in it she claims, had come from Sanjay Dutt’s house.

When the initial outpouring of support for Sanju-baba happened, from Digvijaya Singh to Jaya Prada, Kazi’s daughter had said, “I wish I was a celebrity or my mother was a celebrity or a sister of an MP. Even my mother would have got the kind of support Sanjay Dutt is getting. If it is on humanitarian grounds then why only Sanjay Dutt, why not Zaibunissa? Isn’t she a human? Isn’t she a citizen of this country?”

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Sanjay Dutt before leaving for the TADA court to surrender in 2013.

Unlike Dutt’s high-profile well-wishers, Zaibunissa Kazi’s daughter asked the media not to use her name. She was scared of the repercussions.

Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju who had appealed for a pardon for Dutt, eventually also appealed to the President and the Governor of Maharashtra to pardon Zaibunissa Kazi as well on humanitarian grounds. “I am of the firm opinion she also deserves a pardon,” he wrote. “I make no distinction between a celebrity and a non-celebrity.”

Alas, the story of Kazi and Dutt shows that everyone else does.

According to Scoopwhoop, Kazi received parole once for a month in 2014 and 14 days of furlough in 2015. She has been operated for a malignant tumour on her kidney and her family has pointed out that with her medical condition makes jail even harder on her.

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Dutt has received parole and furlough multiple times. He has spent 155 days of his sentence in the comfort of his home. He got parole in August 2015 for 30 days for his daughter’s nose surgery. That was extended to 60. He even got parole to attend New Year celebrations. He went to jail in May 2013 and was back home for the first time on furlough in October. Now he is being released 103 days early on grounds of good behaviour. No one is alleging that the law is being twisted here, no one is saying his behaviour was not good, or he does not deserve an early release. The only question is does Zaibunissa Kazi deserve it any less?

In January this year, as Dutt got ready to leave jail, Kazi’s daughter also applied for early release on grounds of good conduct and medical history. But she refused to speak on camera saying “If my appeal is under consideration then I don’t want to simply ignite controversy. Keeping my fingers crossed.”

Good conduct is good but good connections are much better.

“Ramdev and a section of Sanjay's supporters in the BJP, including his lawyer Hitesh Jain who is also an RSS activist, have been instrumental in securing the actor's early release,” reports The Telegraph.

When you don’t have such heavy-hitters batting for you, then all you can do is keep your head down and your fingers crossed. The law does allow for concessions like parole, furlough, early release but as Arun George writes in Scoopwhoop when your name is Zaibunissa Kazi and not Sanjay Dutt, there’s a good chance that your file is “forgotten among the thousands who may be seeking an early release due to good conduct in jails.” Good conduct is good but good connections are much better.

“There is no easy walk to freedom, my friends,” Dutt told the media at the Pune airport. True enough, but Zaibunissa Kazi knows that much better than him. If anything let the celebrations over Dutt’s return remind us once again of Zaibunissa Kazi. Easy or not, Sanjay Dutt just walked to freedom. Zaibunissa Kazi has not even taken a step.

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