Issues

The lawless Indian jails demand attention and reforms

With news-reports coming in of Dr. Kafeel Khan’s wife fearing his very survival cum safety in the Mathura Jail, where he sits imprisoned, I have been wondering the vulnerability of an Indian Muslim prisoner, in the backdrop of the terribly horrifying communal times we are living in. What, with the Hindutva Agenda holding sway to such an extent that none of the communally-twisted politicians have been arrested or even questioned in the backdrop of the Delhi pogrom of 2020. This, when there are videos after videos playing out their communal provocative speeches, and also many victims holding them responsible for this pogrom. Ironically, instead of getting booked, these very tainted politicians are roaming about with security cover! State protection for the culprits…for  politicians terrorizing us day and night!

Jailed: Sharjeel Imam, Dr Kafeel Khan, Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jahan, Danish

In this Delhi pogrom 2020, if Muslim boys and men could be very blatantly attacked and assaulted by the Hindutva goons on the streets and mohallas and residential colonies of North East Delhi, all under the watchful gaze of the cops, then one can well imagine what could be taking place behind the high walls of the prisons.

Not to overlook the news reports, focusing on the Kashmiri prisoners battling severe health problems in far-away jails and with that finding it very, very difficult to survive in the prisons of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and in the other Northern states of the country.

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I would say it’s a double whammy for prisoners from the disadvantaged minority backgrounds…Yes, I am saying so after reading, rather re-reading books written by several former prisoners and also by those who have been interacting with the imprisoned population – Anjum Zamarud Habib’s ‘Prisoner No. 100’ (Zubaan). Mohammad Aamir Khan’s ‘Framed As A Terrorist’(Speaking Tiger), Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s Begunah Qaidi (Pharos Media), Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmad Husain Mansuri’s ‘I Am A Mufti & I Am Not A Terrorist - 11 Years Behind the Bars’ (Jamiat Ulama,Ahmedabad and Maharashtra), Nandita Haksar's "Framing Geelani, Hanging Afzal - Patriotism In The Time of Terror" (Bibliophile South Asia,) and Iftikhar Gilani’s ‘My Days in Prison’ (Penguin) …

Read what these former prisoners had to face in prison and you’d realize how tough and unsafe and humiliating it got for them …I repeat double whammy for them!

Triple whammy, when their tormentors are released and set free. Yes, though it gets almost impossible to nail or arrest any of the tainted cops but even if that happens in some rare cases, there is every possibility of they getting bailed out …set free!

I must hasten to add that nothing comes as a shocker in these RSS-ridden times. I recall when in the first week of August 2017, the special CBI court discharged former IPS officer D.G. Vanzara and also the Rajasthan-cadre IPS officer Dinesh MN in the case of alleged fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, there was little hue and cry from the opposition.

This, when there is this vital backgrounder to this encounter specialist’s killings. After all, DG Vanzara, a DIG-rank officer, was arrested on April 24, 2007, in connection with the alleged fake encounter of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi, who were abducted by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra. Sheikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in 2005, after which his wife ‘disappeared’, killed! Prajapati, an eyewitness, was also allegedly killed by the police in 2006…The Sohrabuddin case was transferred to Mumbai in 2012 on the CBI’s request for a fair trial. In 2013, the Supreme Court clubbed the “fake encounter” case of Prajapati with that of Sheikh.

DG Vanzara’s this particular letter published in RB Sreekumar’s book Gujarat - Behind The Curtain (Revised edition to be published by Pharos Media) carries pointers. I’m quoting from this book, “DIG D. G. Vanzara, jailed since April 2007 for the alleged guilt of committing fake encounters, in his resignation letter to the government of Gujarat, dated 1st September2013, said ‘Tendering of resignation from my service with renunciation of all post-retirement benefits …Gujarat CID / Union CBI had arrested me and my officers in different encounter cases, holding us to be responsible for carrying out alleged fake encounters, if that is true then the CBI investigating officers of all the 4 encounter cases of Sohrabuddin, Tulsi Ram, Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also, as we, being field officers have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters. By this reasoning, I am of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinagar, should either be in Taloja Central Prison at Navi Mumbai or in the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad.’”

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WHY NO LOOKING INTO THE TREATMENT METED TO THE JAILED!

After reading these books, one wonders: Why are the communal cum corrupt jail officers not booked or dismissed? Where is transparency? Why should we go only by police hand-outs? Why shouldn’t a non-governmental agency be allowed to carry out simultaneous investigative probes? Why should minorities always sit in fear of the police and its ways!

After all, it is not difficult to arrest an innocent and heap terror charges on him; with that he sits languishing. Not to overlook the patent one-liners that go along with the arrests —the arrested has ‘confessed’ his or her ‘crime’ to the police. Who will believe that the arrested ‘confessed’ without those torture sessions. Aren’t we aware of the fact that the police can make one confess any possible crime in the midst of torture sessions. And as we are more than aware that the police can arrest and detain just about anyone.

Though big-bodied commissions had been set up to look into the living conditions of the Muslims of the country yet it seems unfortunate that there's no looking into the condition of the imprisoned Muslim population.

Here it gets relevant to point out that when I had suggested to Justice Sachar who was heading the Sachar Committee that why don’t they extend the Committee’s findings to jails and the jailed population, he made it very clear that doesn't come under their mandate. As he put across, “The Sachar Committee had tried to go a little extra finding, in terms of doing headcount of the Muslim in the Indian Army and see what a volley we faced.”

Unfortunately the Sachar Committee could not extend its probe to what's been happening behind those high walls of the prisons.

But today we simply can’t bypass the prison happenings! Why don’t apolitical groups set up an independent commission to look into the lives and conditions of the prisoners?

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On Sarojini Naidu’s death anniversary… Her verse titled ‘Panjab 1919’.

Tucked in the volume ‘Jallianwala Bagh — Literary Responses in Prose & Poetry’ (Edited by Rakhshanda Jaleel, published by Niyogi Books), is this verse of Sarojini Naidu, titled - Panjab 1919:

“How shall our love console thee, or assuage/

Thy hapless woe; how shall our grief requite/

The hearts that scourge thee and the hands that smite/

Thy beauty with their rods of bitter rage?/

Lo! Let our sorrows be thy battle–gage/

To wreck the terror of the tyrant’s might/

Who mocks with ribald wrath thy tragic plight,/

And stains with shame thy radiant heritage!/

O beautiful! O broken and betrayed!/

O mournful queen! O martyred Draupadi!/

Endure thou still, unconquered, undismayed! /

The sacred rivers of thy stricken blood/

Shall prove the five-fold stream of Freedom’s flood,/

To guard the watch-towers of our Liberty.”

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