Kashmiri Inmates Thrashed, Not Allowed to Offer Namaz in Punjab jail

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Punjab Jail

Ankit Grewal, who practices law in Chandigarh, has written to the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking intervention to protect the lives of the two inmates “who have been facing a threat to their lives in the jail where the environment is hostile”.

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India, Exclusive 

Two Kashmiri inmates have been harassed, thrashed and not allowed to offer Namaz by a group of fellow inmates at central jail in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, their lawyer has alleged.

Ankit Grewal, who practices law in Chandigarh, has written to the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking intervention to protect the lives of the two inmates “who have been facing a threat to their lives in the jail where the environment is hostile”.

Speaking with Clarion India from Chandigarh, Grewal said the two inmates who hail from the frontier district of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir were harassed and attacked because of “their religious and ethinic identity”.

The two inmates Sajad Hussain and Irshad Ahmad are under-trials awaiting judgement in a case which accuses them of possessing and divulging maps about security establishments to the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. Arrested in February 2016, the duo was first held in Pathankot jail before they were shifted to Gurdaspur.

Grewal said he received a phone call from the duo who told him about the incident. According to them, on 12 June 2020, at around 9 pm, they were attacked by fellow inmates in barrack-2. “They said they were stripped naked, beaten, and humiliated. They were called ‘terrorists’ because they are Kashmiri Muslims,” Grewal wrote in the complaint.

The attack on the duo took place two days after a soldier Naik Gurcharan Singh, who was a resident of Gurdaspur district, died in an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani armies at LoC in Manjakote sector of Rajouri district in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri inmates in jails face this type of humiliations whenever there are border skirmishes or diplomatic tension between India and Pakistan.

The lawyer said his clients, Sajad and Irshad, have already been facing harassment in the jail where the environment for them is “hostile”. The two Kashmiris were shifted from Barrack-1 to Barrack 2 to accommodate the “VIP inmates” who exploited them to “clean their clothes, fetch drinking water. They were not allowed to perform namaz, and were humiliated on the basis of their religious practices.”

When the duo raised the issue with jail authorities, they told their lawyer, they were warned of grave consequences. Grewal alleged that the jail authorities have failed to respond to the Kashmiri inmates’ requests for protection. They are so scared that they are not ready to reveal the names of the culprits, Grewal said.

When Clarion India approached jail authorities for comment, the Superintendent of Gurdaspur Jail Balkar Singh Bullar said he has also received a copy of the complaint from the lawyer. He, however, downplayed the incident saying that “verbal duel” among jail inmates is normal. “We treat our inmates with love,” Bullar said. No one has reported to him such an incident inside jail. “We will write a reply to the lawyerctomorrow,” he told Clarion India.

Sajad and Irshad were last presented before the court in mid-March, Grewal said. “Since then, due to lockdown, they haven’t had a chance to make themselves heard even via video conferencing to seek relief of their immediate grievances.”

In the letter, Grewal has appealed to the Chief Justice to take cognizance of the matter “’in view of the threats to the lives of his clients”. He has demanded that Sajad and Irshad should be shifted to a different Barrack to ensure their safety. He also asked the court to issue an order that holds “erring officials” accountable for “dereliction of duty”

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