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False Charges and Brutality in Prison: Mohd Amir Khan

June 15, 2012

Guest post by MOHD. AMIR KHAN

[ Mohd. Aamir Khan has spent 14 years in prison and was acquitted earlier this year]

I am in deep pain today. As though terrible, terrible memories, locked away in the deep recesses of my mind have been pried open. Heard on news that an accused in terror case was killed in judicial custody in Yerwada jail. That too in his high security cell.

I had read that the British rulers unleashed physical and mental torture on prisoners in colonial jails, but have never heard that they carried out killings of hapless convicts or undertrials in their custody. The naked truth of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has been brought before the world. But who will illumine the dark secrets of the netherworld of our prisons? Brutalisation and torture are routine in our jails.

I speak from experience, having lived for fourteen long and seemingly unending years in prisons in three states. There was a near fatal attack on me twelve years ago while I was lodged in the model prison of India, Tihar Jail. But when I survived the attack, a case was slapped on me. While I was thankfully acquitted in the case, not one of those who attacked me was charged until my father – who was still alive then—appealed to the court to intervene. Mercifully, the Court accepted his complaint and registered a case, which still goes on in Tees Hazari court.My co-accused, Mohd. Shakeel, died an unnatural death in Dasna jail in 2010. The jail superintendent and other officials are facing a trial in Ghaziabad. I have been witness to many such incidents of attack on accused, especially Muslims accused of terrorism. Have you ever heard of an attack on Lt. Col. Purohit, Swami Assemanand, Sadhvi Pragya etc? I pray for the safety and well being of all but why this difference? When news broke of Sadhvi Pragya’s torture in custody, the senior most leader of the second largest party rushed to the Prime Minister. But why are we abandoned? When there is but one national flag, one national anthem and one Constitution, why are people treated differently? Will the senior leader feel any need to raise the custodial murder of Qateel with the PM?

Whilst I was in Rohtak Jail in Haryana, a prisoner, who had recently been transferred from Ambala Central Jail, told me that prime accused in the Samjhuata Express blast received VIP facilities. I was surprised. I also heard that Pragya Thakur was sent for treatment to a hospital outside the jail, whereas most of us are not given proper treatment even in the jail dispensary.

Let it be that some undertrials receive VIP treatment and some deprived of it. At least treat us like human beings. Is it too much to ask for security against physical attacks. Is it too much to ask to live with dignity inside Indian prisons?

You might think that I am reacting unnecessarily. But I have lived the claustrophobic, life sapping existence of a prisoner. I know first hand the frustration and helplessness that comes with it. I can feel the pain of Qateel’s family. I wonder now whether his family will ever find justice. I wonder whether anything can recompense for his loss? I wonder whether this open mockery of our constitutional guarantees will continue unabated?

My only purpose in writing this is to appeal to all humane, secular people of this country to consider this matter of life, security and dignity of prisoners urgently.

In the hope for a more just future.

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