Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Jailbirds Run On Their Records -- And Win

By Anuj Chopra

GHAZIPUR, INDIA -- For the past three years, a federal prison in the badlands of northern India has been the next best thing to freedom for Mukhtar Ansari. A tall, mustached member of the Uttar Pradesh state legislature, he's awaiting trial for more than two dozen alleged crimes, including murder. But Ansari has remained steadily in touch with his loyal supporters—especially in recent weeks, while he ran for a seat in the nation's parliament from his cell. Dedicated campaign workers like Lakshmi Devi, an elderly local widow who thinks of the jailed candidate as a modern-day Robin Hood, have been routinely allowed to call on Ansari at any time of day. They need only to flash an entry permit—not a government-issued photo ID, but a note on Ansari's personal letterhead. "Gatekeeper Sahib," the old woman's tattered letter says, handwritten in Hindi. "Do not stop aunty from coming to see me."

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