As Covid-19 rages through Maharashtra, hundreds of prisoners at the central jail in Nashik are also facing a crisis with hardly any means to prevent the spread of the deadly disease
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – Hundreds of prisoners at the Nashik central jail in Maharashtra are showing symptoms of Covid-19 and are facing a major crisis, an inmate of the prison has said in a letter to the Bombay High Court.
Mohammed Sajid Ansari, who is serving rigorous imprisonment for life at the Nashik jail, wrote a letter that he managed to send out, urging the chief justice of the court to order the jail to release him on three months’ interim bail. According to Ansari’s letter – which he has urged the court to treat as an affidavit – at least 18 prisoners and staff members have been found Covid-19 positive in an additional prison. “The right to life of all prisoners including the applicant is at stake,” he pleaded.
Wahid Shaikh, a relative of his, told Clarion India on Thursday that Nashik jail is in a terrible condition and patients are not getting treatment. Several hundred prisoners in the central jail are facing the risk of getting infected with Covid-19. Shaikh was told by another prisoner who was just released on interim bail about the dire situation in Nashik jail.
“Mohammed Ansari approached the jail administration, but they did not like it and pushed him into a crowded and small cell,” says Shaikh. Ansari then wrote to Shaikh, urging him to plead with the high court for bail. Suffering from a range of ailments including dental problems, internal ear ailment and vertigo, Ansari had been urging the authorities to take him to the civil hospital.
But because of the Covid-19 crisis, prisoners were not being given medical treatment in the jail or taken to government hospitals. Ansari is worried that if he is not treated soon, he may develop oral cancer.
Both Shaikh and Ansari were among a dozen Mumbai residents who were arrested following the 2006 suburban train bombings, when seven blasts ripped through the local trains on July 11, 2006, killing more than 200 people and injuring over 700. “I was in jail for 10 years before I was acquitted and released from prison,” explains Shaikh. But Ansari and others were convicted in the case. He filed a plea about his innocence, but the case is still pending in court for years.
Dr Javed Ansari, the elder brother of Mohammed, told this reporter that the situation is getting worse by the day. None of the relatives have been able to communicate with Ansari at his Nashik prison for the past six months. His wife and child are in Mumbai with Dr Ansari. “But I am suffering from ailments and am unable to travel to Nashik,” he says.
Wahid Shaikh, who did his law, journalism and other courses when he was in prison, is also a lawyer but does not practice at present. He is busy writing a book and trying to help victims suffering in jail. “We were arrested arbitrarily and made to suffer in jail all these years,” he says. “The actual culprits have never been caught.”
Mohammed Ansari, in a long letter to the Nashik collector, wrote: “Basic medical facilities are the fundamental right of prisoners…but the prison does not have any Corona testing centre or kit.” He pleaded with the government official to make the facilities available at the earliest to treat the hundreds of prisoners, including women with their children, from a variety of ailments including Covid-19.