NHRC asks MP Chief Secy Bains to report on the 28 tortured prisoners in six weeks

Pointing out that it has been nearly three years since the NHRC first submitted its recommendations, many activists urged authorities to take cognisance of prisoners’ basic human rights.

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Following Madhya Pradesh government’s silence over National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) recommendations for legal action against Bhopal Central jail authorities for alleged physical and mental torture of 28 prisoners allegedly from the banned outfit SIMI, the organisations demanded a response from Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains within next six weeks, reported the Indian Express on April 13, 2021.

Two weeks after the NHRC’s letter, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) member Madhuri Krishnaswamy, Innocence Network’s human rights activists Wahid Shaikh and Fawaz Shaheen, and Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims member Masood Ahmed met Bains and Director General (Prisons) Arvind Kumar, to push for NHRC’s recommendations.

A three-member investigation team had written these recommendations after the NHRC conducted a spot inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the complaint made in May 2017, by Nazma Bi and nine other relatives of 21 undertrial prisoners. Victims’ kin alleged that they were subjected to constant torture after eight prisoners escaped in October 2016 and were subsequently killed in a police encounter the following day.

The team asked for legal action against jail authorities directly and indirectly involved in beating, torture, criminal intimidation and denial of basic human rights. The NHRC report also recommended action against the prison doctor Premendra Sharma, for failing to record injuries and the history of assault and torture incidents in prisoners’ medical tickets.

Further, the NHRC called for a high-level committee under a secretary rank officer to: address grievances of convicts; relax their solitary confinement to the extent possible, ensure adequate food, clothing, water, access to magazines, newspapers; ensure that prisoners are not forced to raise religious slogans.

Krishnaswamy pointed out that despite three years of waiting, the government remains reluctant to follow NHRC’s recommendations that only provide basic rights to convicts. In response, DG Kumar said the administration is “studying the jail administration’s response” and will respond to the letter in due time.

NHRC’s attention to the matter came after the DIG (Jails)’s claim in February 2021, that inmates were illegally demanding facilities such as uninterrupted movement in the campus, collective reading of namaz, individual newspapers. Seven inmates were on a hunger strike since September 2020 for these demands.

Meanwhile, family members like Haidar Hussain Nagori told the Indian Express how his brother Safdar Nagori was frisked 28 times at night and forced to chant “Jai Shree Ram” if he wanted food. Similarly, Kamaruddin Nagori’s brother talked about how his sibling lost 14 kg in the past 45 days. Further allegations claimed that prisoners are not given warm clothes even when sent from home. Farhad Khan’s brother, Arshad Khan claimed that the Holy Quran was frisked and checked twice a day and thrown on the ground. He further alleged that jail authorities tried to adopt ways to communally incite prisoners, who are subsequently beaten up.

The NHRC had detailed such events in its report but the City Central Jail’s SP denied all allegations. However, a later complaint by the Jamia teachers Solidarity Association stated that the torture intensified following the Commission’s visit.

The NHRC has asked the state government to probe the serious allegations and asked the Chief Secretary to submit an appropriate response.


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