By TwoCircles.net staff reporter
Ahmedabad: Even as the prison authorities on Monday submitted in the Gujarat High court that there was no “severe beating” of the Sabarmati jail inmates, mostly Muslims, the relatives of the inmates who met them inside the jail today said that as many as 22 inmates were severely beaten up and are in a serious condition.
Speaking to TwoCircles.net, the relatives of the inmates alleged that the prison authorities were neither providing them treatment nor giving adequate food, thus allowing the condition of inmates from bad to worse. According to relatives, inmates were attacked when they were performing `salat’ or `namaz’ at around 5:15 p.m. and were in prostrating posture (sajda).
Though the alleged physical torture of the inmates had been going on for more than a week, the relatives came to know of it when an advocate linked to NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) Shamshad Pathan visited the jail premises in connection with some legal matters.
Their doubts were further confirmed when neither relatives nor the advocates fighting the cases of these inmates were allowed to have meeting with the inmates inside the jail on Saturday (March 28). The jail authorities had fixed Saturday as the day for allowing POTA and July 26 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts undertrials to meet their relatives and advocates. Most of those targeted by the police and jail staff for torture are POTA accused in post-Godhra 2002 cases or Jul 26 serial blasts.
However, after three days of moving from pillar to post to secure permission, family members of the inmates finally managed to visit the jail on Monday evening. And what they saw inside the jail in 10 to 15 minutes as they were allowed only a short visit was very terrifying.
According to the relatives, most of the inmates beaten up by jail and police staff have sustained head injuries and got their legs and hands fractured. And most of them were not in a position to stand and walk and even to go to toilet to answer the nature’s call.
Bomb blast accused and an undertiral Shamsuddin’s mother Nasimbano alleged that her son had been beaten so seriously that he was notable to walk and even sit.
“Shamsuddin has suffered serious injuries on back side of his head and both of his legs and hands have been broken”, she said, after visiting the jail.
She also alleged that her son was not being provided medication nor was he given proper and adequate food; with the result he had become weak and lean. “The jail has been converted into a torture cell”, she charged.
Farzana, wife of Arif Sheikh, alleged that Arif had got fractured both of his hands due to severe beatings and one of his ribs had also broken, making it extremely difficult for him to sit or walk.
Another inmate Zahid Sheikh’s sister Saleha was very angry while talking to reporters as, according to her, police and jail staffers urinated on her brother before beating him when he was in prayer.
She refuted the charges of the jail and police officials that inmates indulged into clashes with jail staff and this forced the policemen to resort to lathi charge. “it is a false and fabricated thesis of the police and jail staffers to hide and justify their crimes”, she stated.
Shazia, wife of Sajid Mansuri considered to be one of the main accused in the July 26 serial bomb blasts, alleged that Sajid was performing `Asr’ prayers and was in `sajda’(prostrating position with his head on the ground) when the cops began hitting him on head and legs.
“My husband has suffered serious injuries on the back of his head and both the legs are fractured. There are severe injuries on both the arms, including fingers”, she said.
According to her, Sajid was also being denied food, barring a cup of milk. She alleged that there was no medical treatment, except pain killers, given to him.
Afsanabano, wife of Yunus Mansuri, another blast accused, alleged that a group of about 20 cops attacked her husband when he was offering prayers. She alleged that jail authorities were neither sending the injured to the government hospital outside for treatment nor making medical arrangement in the jail.
She alleged that cops asked Yunus not to narrate the story of torture but talk about personal family matters only. She was also allegedly advised by the cops not to talk to media about conditions in the jail.
When questioned about provocation, Afsanabano said there was no provocation at all from inmates’ side. On being asked that inmates were reported to have attacked the jail staff with weapons, she retorted: “even food was checked by the jail staff before being allowed inside, how then the inmates could procure weapons as alleged by the jail officials.”
Vaddoara-based Hameedabano, mother of another blast accused Imran Sheikh, told mediapersons that her son was badly beaten in the abdomen by cops. His right hand is fractured.
With tears rolling down her eyes, mother of another undertrial Gayasduddin alleged that the life of her son was in danger as the cops had beaten her son very badly. “I could not ever imagine that policemen would be so savage,” she said.
Court asks for report from jail authorities
Meanwhile, the court of designated metropolitan magistrate G M Patel hearing the cases of the serial bomb blasts accused on Monday directed the jail authorities to submit a report on the injuries sustained by the accused and the treatment provided to them within a period of two days. The magistrate also allowed two defence lawyers Javedkhan Pathan and I M Munshi to meet the inmates on March 31.
IGP(Prison) denies the allegation of beating
In an affidavit submitted to a division bench comprising chief justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Akil Kureshi of the Gujarat high court on Monday (March 30), Inspector General of Police (prisons) Keshav Kumar denied there was any “severe beatings” of the inmates. The affidavit was submitted by him in response to a notice issued to him by the court on March 27 on a public interest litigation filed by Jan Sangharsh Manch representative Shamshad Pathan.
However, the high court asked Ahmedabad additional sessions judge P B Desai to submit a report of the incident inside the jail by April 3 and fixed the next hearing on April 6.
In his petition, Pathan had alleged that several inmates were subjected to severe torture and inhuman treatment by jail superintendent V Chandrashekhar who had in fact created an atmosphere of terror in the jail and had violated all norms of a civilized society. He had also demanded immediate transfer of Chandrashekhar.
Pathan’s petition had pointed out that one Akbar, a convicted prisoner was severely beaten and his leg was fractured. Another prisoner Silvester who was one of the witness in the infamous Sohrabuddin fake-encounter case and brought from Udaipur (Rajasthan) on March 20, 2009 was brutally beaten. He was handcuffed on one hand and another hand was tied with the bars of the ventilator and was made to stand facing the wall and was brutally beaten on back with sticks by Chandrashekhar. It was also reported that his life was in danger.
According to Pathan’s petition, a Nigerian undertrial Louis was also severely beaten. Two prisoners Ashraf Ismail Nagori and Rahim alias Ferozkhan Pathan convicted under POTA were denied medical treatment.
Apart from specific complaints of brutality and atrocity committed on prisoners, Pathan had submitted that the jail authorities were completely unsympathetic towards the welfare of the prisoners. Knowingly and deliberately they flouted the directions given by the Gujarat High Court in its order dated May 7, 2004 in Special Civil Application No.16198/2003. He submitted that Chandrashekhar after taking over the administration of Sabarmati Central Jail had curtailed all the amenities and welfare measures which the prisoners were entitled to under law.
Human rights organizations condemn torture
Meanwhile, several human rights group and organisations have condemned the alleged torture of inmates in the Sabarmati jail. The All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM) said that Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s handpicked jailors are subjecting prisoners to continuous inhuman treatment and denying them medical treatment and visits by relatives and lawyers.
Fr. Cedric Prakash of NGO Prashant described the incident as barbaric and demanded immediate restoration of human rights of the inmates in the prison and action against the guilty police and prison authorities.
PUCL activist J S Bandukwala described the incident very heinous deserving severe condemnation. But he said that one could not expect anything good in Modi’s Gujarat.
Senior lawyer and representative of NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch demanded setting up of a court commission comprising of advocates, court official and a government official other than the police to inquire into the issue and submit a report to the Gujarat High Court for initiating action in the matter.