Inside MP prisons, a life of hell awaits Muslim prisoners

Unheard & Unspoken: Terror stories from Madhya Pradesh: Part 9

By Mohd. Ismail Khan,

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Indian prisons are known in the world as the dungeons of human rights violations due to these fact foreign nations and courts had to think twice or even some times refuse to grant extradition like in the case of Tiger Haneef or Kim Davvy. But what is going to be the condition of Muslim youth who are being branded as ‘Aatankwadi’ or ‘Desh Drohi’ when they enter into these dark dungeons. Qateel Ahmed Sidiqqi’s case who was arrested as Indian Mujahideen “master mind” and was killed in Pune jail, is a grim reminder of the condition that Muslims face in these jails.

“They create an environment for us that we start thinking we are from some other place, we are the outsiders, that we are some kind of foreign terrorist”, recalls Hafiz Mohammad Yousuf Khan from Indore who was arrested in 2008 on the charges of giving inflammatory speeches and collecting funds for SIMI. He spent over two years in Madhya Pradesh prisons.

Wearing a Batman t-shirt, Yousuf narrated his story. Police picked him up from his mobile repair shop and put him in 3 days illegal custody during that period he alleged that he was mentally tortured. Yousuf describes that in jail there is totally different kind of treatment for Muslim prisoners arrested in terror cases. He said, “From the beginning when we entered the jail we observed that attitude of the jail staff was discriminatory towards us. I was kept in an 8×8 cell along with five other youths; for four months we were not allowed to leave the cell, we had to eat, and use the toilets inside that cell. Jail staff from the beginning started beating us for no reason, they use to beat us whenever they liked.”

He also adds, “After spending nearly 1 year in Indore central prison I was shifted to Shidhi District Jail in Rewa, 800 K.M. away from Indore, jail authorities gave the reason that from the security point of view all the prisoners who are arrested in SIMI cases were shifted in different jails. In Sidhi, I was kept in a cell half kilometer away from other general cells, to create an environment of terror they deployed 15 officers to guard me, and I was allowed to step outside my tiny cell for just 20 minutes in a day. Even my parents faced lot of difficulties to meet me in siddhi prison. My parents use to travel such a long distance but jail authorities didn’t give them more than ten minutes to speak to me.”

Finally in 2011 Hafiz Mohammad Yousuf Khan was convicted and got 2 years prison sentence in the Sessions Court, as he had already spent 2 and a half years in jail he was freed. But Yousuf filed an appeal against his conviction in the High Court even though he is a free man now. When we asked the reason he said, “I am innocent, police framed false charges against me, I think Session Court gave the judgment under the policy pressure of the MP government. I believe I will get justice from the high court and will get back the lost respect.”

But at the same time he was not sure whether MP media will cover his news if he will win in the High court, he said “when I was arrested, and convicted that was a front page news that SIMI members got arrested and convicted, I hope when I will clear my name from the High Court MP media will give same kind of coverage as they had given earlier. But seeing the track record of MP media I can’t be sure.”

Mohammad Naved Iqbal was a successful Mechanical Engineer working as an Inspection Officer for Hero Honda, in 2009 when he was in Bhopal on company’s buisness; he received a call from Indore Police they asked him to return back to Indore as they wanted to talk to him. Naved returned back to Indore, and visited the police station; police arrested him immediately on the charges of being a SIMI member and booked in sec 3, 10, and 13 of UAPA. He spent 2 months in jail before getting bail. He told us in jail he was badly treated, “On entering the prison they start beating me with lathis, and then put me in 8×8 cell along with 3 other persons who were also arrested on similar charges. We were not treated same as other general prisoners, in those 2 months I hardly knew what was going on outside or in the jail because we were barely allowed to come out from that small cell. If we were allowed to go out, then it will not be more than 10-15 minutes in a week.”

He said after coming out on bail outside world become more tough then prison, he told us, “I lost my job, Hero Honda fired me as soon as they got to know about my arrest, my close friends are feeling scared to speak to me, it’s been 3 years and trial is still going on without any proper proceedings, there is no one to help us, even Muslim leaders are scared to speak about us fearing their own possible arrest.”

In 2008 Mohammad Amaan a resident of Indore a binding worker by profession and caretaker of a local masjid was arrested twice. First he was picked up on the allegation that he was supporting SIMI faction led by Safdar Nagori and spearheading a campaign for their release by distributing pamphlets and pasting posters. He said police put him in illegal custody for 3 days and tortured him, he even alleged that Superintendent of police Anshuman Yadav personally monitored his torture and ASP Manoj Singh tortured him and beat him personally. In that case he spent 2 months in jail and then got the bail.

Two months later MP ATS arrested him again alleging that he gave support to Ahmedabad bomb blast accused when he visited Indore. Amaan alleged he was tortured and kept in illegal custody for 7 days by the ATS. He spent nearly eight months in Indore central prison for this case before getting bail from the high court.

Amaan describes for us the condition of Muslim prisoners who are arrested in terror cases. He said, “When I entered the prison it was announced that SIMI member and ‘Aatankwadi’ has arrived. A Jail officer asked me to get undressed and then started beating me with his rod, then he asked me to go to the chowk in just my underwear. When I reached chowk, the Circle Jailor along with others started beating me. After that they sent me in a cell which was reserved for Muslims who were arrested in terror cases. It was 6×8 or 6×6 cells in each cell there was three or five persons. In my cell we were five persons. We five people use to eat and drink in that stifling cell even we had to use toilet in that same 6×6 space. That cell was not even sufficient enough to sit down and stretch legs. In the beginning they use to keep us locked for 24 hours. But after lot of pleading they allowed us to take 30 minutes’ walk out of the cell.”

Amaan said after coming out of prison he had to bear the perception which was created in the minds of society. He said, “People changed the way they use to look at me and talk to me, when I asked the reason they said newspapers had published that I made bombs and was a bomb maker they too started seeing me as a terrorist.”

It was some gory tales of those Muslim youths who might spend little time in jail but bear a lot due the obvious terror cases on them which distinguishes them with other prisoners in the jail owed to the pseudo-patriotism embedded in the jail staff even in the fellow inmates. But they were fortunate in a sense that they got out with sound mind and alive to tell their story, because there are many like Qateel Siddiqui who might have faced the utmost repression but is not amongst us to tell their of tale of torture and state repression.