SIMI prisoners on hunger strike in Bhopal jail; PUCL delegation meets IG to get their woes redressed

By Pervez Bari 

BHOPAL – A delegation led by Ms Madhuri Subramaniam of PUCL met Sanjay Pandey, the Deputy Inspector General of Prisons (Establishment) Madhya Pradesh, and submitted a memorandum apprising him about the reported hunger strike by some of the prisoners in Bhopal Central Jail for want of proper facilities being provided to them as per the jail manual.

Pandey assured the delegation that he would discuss the issue with the Director General of Prisons & Correctional Services, Madhya Pradesh and do the needful to resolve the matter. The other persons in the delegation included Syed Javed Akhtar, Mohammad Ansar and Masood Ahmad Khan.

It may be mentioned here that a local newspaper reported that four activists of banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) are on a hunger strike in Bhopal central jail to press for their demands.

In all, 28 SIMI activists are lodged in Bhopal Central Jail who have been charged of not following rules as per jail manual. Neither do they stand up when National Anthem is played or sung. According to jail authorities, four activists are on hunger strike from January 13. The activists only take daal soup and not full meal.

The jail doctor is monitoring the health of activists. The activists are mounting pressure on jail administration to allow them to move in jail premises. They said they should be allowed to meet other prisoners.

They are kept in high security area of the jail known as “Anda” (egg) cell. They said they should not be checked every day and the investigators should not touch their books. They have also demanded a separate newspaper and magazine to read among other more facilities. They should be allowed to join mass Namaz (prayer). They have refused to wear jail dresses and insist on wearing skull cap, the report said.

NHRC recommendations ignored

Meanwhile, the memorandum submitted by the delegation said that many complaints regarding SIMI prisoners have already been sent to senior officials and the National Human Rights Commission which had also found in its investigation that they were being tortured, and had given several recommendations in this regard. But concrete corrective actions have not been taken.

The memorandum stated that four prisoners are being kept in illegal solitary confinement in the jail. They are being taken out of their cell only for 1-2 hour a day, sometimes for maximum 3 hours, and that too only two persons are being given a chance to go out together. The prisoners kept in “Anda” (egg) cell are being tortured the most in this case. According to the rules, outside the stipulated time of lock up, the prisoners are allowed to come out in the courtyard for taking sunbath and inhale fresh air, for leisure walk, performing some exercises and for talking to other prisoners. However, these prisoners are being deprived of these facilities. The reason for this deprivation is being said to be security concerns. But there are adequate security arrangements for these cells and adequate watch towers are also there in place from security point of view. Hence there is no reason why these prisoners should not be given the same facilities as per the rules available to other prisoners. All the prisoners of old cell and “Anda” (egg) cell should be allowed to roam around in their respective courtyards and have liberty to talk to other prisoners.

The memorandum further said: 1. Prisoners should be given paper, pens, notebooks, books, calendar, daily newspapers, magazines etc. After inspection study materials given from their homes should also be made available to them. 2. The prisoners should be given full medical treatment facilities. A prisoner named Aamil Parvez is suffering from cancer. But he is not being provided proper treatment. 3. There is no fan or ventilation system in the old cells measuring 5 feet by 8 feet. 4. Namaz is not being allowed in the community of these prisoners even though it is their religious need. You are requested to make arrangements to offer Friday prayers in small groups at least once a week; 5. All the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission should be followed in letter and spirit; and 6. For implementation of the rules properly, a monitoring committee should be formed in which members of Human Rights organizations should also be included.

The memorandum pointed out that jail officials have been informed many times orally and in writing also that the image of the government and the administration was tarnished due to the “jail break” in 2016 by the prisoners of SIMI related issues. It is worth mentioning that all the prisoners involved in this incident were killed in an encounter the same day. Torturing those who were not involved in this incident out of revenge is not only illegal, but also indecent and unfair in every respect.

It may be recalled here that the court has sentenced two of the activists who were on hunger strike, Shibli and Qamaruddin, to death. At the same time, Abu Faisal and Kamran are serving life imprisonment.

SIMI activists went on hunger strike in past too

SIMI activists also went on a hunger strike in Bhopal jail in November 2020. Then they were demanding facilities like Ahmedabad jail. In Ahmedabad they had the facility to live in the open and meet each other. They were asking for chicken-mutton along with dry fruits, milk and nutritious food. However, even then the jail administration had rejected their demand.

These people went on hunger strike for the second time on 19 February 2021. Then he wanted to get out of solitary confinement. At that time Abu Faisal, Qamaruddin, Kamran and Shibli had gone on hunger strike. Even then his demand was not fulfilled. For the fourth time, on January 12, the four activist once again stopped feeding, diet and even drinking water. On January 13, he formally informed the jail administration about this.

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