Maharashtra Governor petitioned to move 26/11 accused Zabiuddin Ansari out of solitary confinement

After finding no relief from courts Zabiuddin Ansari is on hunger strike since August 5, 2015 and his physical condition is deteriorating each day

solitary confinement
Sketch prepared by Arun. It first appeared in the Wire

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By A Mirsab,,

Mumbai: Several academicians, activists, lawyers and journalists have written a letter to Maharashtra governor to intervene and save life of 26/11 accused Zabiuddin Ansari who is on hunger strike for the last 40 days.

Ansari, 35, is lodged in Mumbai Central Prison under solitary confinement since last 33 months and after finding no relief from various courts he has resolved to go on hunger strike from August 5, 2015.

He is also shown as an accused in 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case besides 2010 German bakery blasts. Investigators also implicated him in National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) case in Delhi and in two more UAPA cases in Beed and Nashik districts.

Six well-know organizations – Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA), Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)- and many people have collectively petitioned Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra requesting to intercede in the matter and help Ansari come out of solitary confinement so that he may break his hunger strike.

After his arrest, Ansari was interrogated extensively by many agencies for 4-5 months and was then finally lodged in Mumbai central prison famously known as Arthur Road Jail. He was kept in the same barrack where lone 26/11 convicted accused Ajmal Kasab was lodged before his execution.

Barrack No 12 is a three-storey structure of re-enforced concrete, with three cells on each floor. It is shrouded by metal sheets that cut off all sunlight, making it impossible for the inmates to know whether it is night or day. A high voltage bulb burns day and night without a moment’s break. A layer of copper covers the cells to block out electro- magnetic radiation, and prevent the use of cell phones and other devices.

It is been 33 months that Ansari is lodged in this barrack that was specifically erected to lodge Kasab. It is the kind of solitary confinement that he is not allowed to meet other prisoners nor is he allowed to roam in the corridor to inhale free fresh air. The only human contact for the past 33 months or so has been the guards who push the food in through the door and seldom his lawyers if he is brought to the court.

Explaining the inhuman lodging of Ansari in a separate barrack, the letter says, “Only a perverse penal imagination can think of lodging a living being into this windowless vault, guaranteed to torment the inmate and drive him to madness and self-destruction. The oppressive and forced atomized existence has been implemented apparently with the noble intention to protect Ansari, but appears more a harsh, excessive and degrading punishment inflicted even before his trial has concluded.“

Justifying the demand of Ansari to be allowed to be shifted in another barrack, the letter reads” All he is seeking is to be moved from this cell to another, any barrack, to be allowed to live with human dignity”.

The nature of the crimes alleged must not detract us from the fundamental principle of natural justice, the letter reads adding that he is but an under trial at the moment, his guilt yet to be established in the court of law.

It termed solitary confinement of Ansari to be illegal and unconstitutional, it points, “…the fact that this prolonged solitary confinement over two years and eight months of an undertrial is unprecedented and militates against every shred of constitutional provisions, judicial pronouncements, as well as India’s commitment to international covenants.”

Expressing apprehension that Ansari may lose life protesting against his solitary confinement by refusing to eat, the letter also explains his deteriorating physical condition.

“Zabiuddin Ansari cannot move without help, and is now beginning to lose his eye sight. If however, he is forced to withdraw his hunger strike without his demand to be moved from this cell being met, he may lose his mind and even inflict self-harm.”

The group also demanded that an independent panel of doctors, psychiatrists, members of the civil society be allowed to visit him to assess his situation.

Following organizations and people signed the letter sent to Maharashtra Governor:

Alternative Law Forum (ALF)
Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR)

Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR)
Human Rights Law Network
Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA)
Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)
Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)

Monika Sakhrani, academic and activist, CPDR, Mumbai
Anand Teltumbde, academic and activist, CPDR, Mumbai
Arun Ferreira, Activist, CPDR, Mumbai
Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
Jyoti Punwani, freelance journalist, Mumbai
Ram Puniyani, activist, Mumbai
Dilip D’Souza, writer, Mumbai
Nadeem Siddiqui, President, Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra
Darryl D’Monte, Senior journalist, Mumbai
Kavita Srivastav, PUCL Rajasthan
Dr. V. Suresh, National Secretary, PUCL
Prof. Upendra Baxi, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Warwick
Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, President, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat
Lesley Esteves, queer rights activist, Delhi and Mumbai
Faizullah, academic, Mumbai
Urvashi Butalia, Feminist writer and publisher, Delhi
Ashok Agrwaal, Lawyer, Delhi
Prof. Apoorvanand, Hindi Department, Delhi University
Prof. Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Academic, Delhi
Prof. Nandini Sundar, Sociologist, Delhi
Prof. Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, JNU, Delhi
Prof. Anand Chakravarti, academic, Delhi
Dr. Uma Chakravarti, academic, Delhi
Dilip Simeon, Writer and academic, Delhi
Ovais Sultan Khan, Activist, Delhi
Radha Khan, Delhi
Dr. Manisha Sethi, Academic, Delhi
Dr. Sanghamitra Misra, Academic, Delhi
Dr. Tanweer Fazal, Academic, Delhi
Dr. Rahul Govind, Academic, Delhi
Ragini Ahuja, Lawyer
Ahmed Sohaib, Academic, Delhi
Dr. Ghazala Jameel Academic, Delhi
Mansi Sharma, Activist, Delhi
Kaveri Gill, Delhi
Kumar Sundaram, Activist, Delhi
N.Jayaram, Journalist, Bangalore
Satya Sivaraman, journalist, Delhi and Chennai

A torture tale of 26/11 accused: 33 months solitary confinement, trial in absence and now hunger strike