Family members clueless about the health of their wards who were hospitalised after one week of hunger strike
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Inspector General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh, seeking a detailed report on the present health status of all the SIMI prisoners and their medical treatment records, within 4 weeks.
The NHRC issued the notice on October 19 taking suo motu cognisance of a report published in Hindustan Times on October 5 that said that six members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had begun a hunger strike inside the Bhopal Central Jail a week ago and now they have been shifted to the jail hospital.
Haider Nagori, brother of Safdar Nagori, one of the six prisoners, had then told Clarion India that jail authorities had not informed his family about the well-being of Safdar. He said he came to know about the development through newspapers. Apparently, families of other five prisoners, too, are unaware of the situation inside the jail.
Clarion India talked to Haider Nagori on Wednesday. He says his family is still clueless about the well-being of his brother.
The SIMI prisoners who are found guilty of sedition, collecting arms and waging war against the government have been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 and 2018 by different courts, including the NIA and CBI Special Courts.
Apart from the present proceedings going on in the existing case, the NHRC takes cognisance of the recent development with regard to grievance of the prisoners and their health conditions.
“The prisoners have the right to food and dignity which is the basic human rights and the State, being their lawful custodian, cannot deny it to the inmates, in its lawful custody. The news report has revealed that all of them are demanding better food, exemption from regular frisking and freedom from the high-security block,” says the NHRC notice.
Expressing its concern over the health of the prisoners, the NHRC says that “amid spread of covid-19, there had been a significant increase in the cases of coronavirus among the inmates lodged in the jails across the country. Hence, it is necessary that the prisoners are provided proper food so that their immunity level remains satisfactory which is also necessary as per guidelines issued by the WHO and ICMR.”
Jail authorities defy even court order
The notices issued by the NHRC gains added significance following reports that the Bhopal jail authorities have recently defied a court order directing them to allow the 11 SIMI prisoners in its custody to have a meeting with their lawyer. The said order was issued by the Special Sessions Court in Ahmedabad, which is trying them in another case.
It said: “The Superintendent of Bhopal Central jail, Madhya Pradesh is hereby directed to permit lawyer D.D. Pathan to meet the above-named 11 accused, personally for the purpose of legal interview and exchanging papers in Gujarati and English languages along with case material and to get the vakalatnamas signed. The lawyer.A. shall be permitted to meet all 11 accused together between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the 7 and 8 of October, 2020”
But Pathan was not allowed to meet his clients on October 7. The following day, that’s on 8 October, he was allowed to meet only those of the 11 prisoners who had not gone on hunger strike.
Family members of the prisoners say that this raises suspicion. The jail authorities are trying to conceal something. First they did not inform them about their ward being hospitalised. Now they are not allowing even their lawyers to meet despite court order.
The family members have given a petition to the NHRC pleading for urgent intervention on their behalf. In the petition, a copy of which is with Clarion India, the family members have complained to the human rights body that ever since the declaration of lockdown seven months back, they have not been allowed to see their wards. Their repeated requests to the jail authorities to allow an audience with the prisoners have fallen on deaf ears of the jail authorities.