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Families of suspected SIMI men say undertrials tortured, abused in Bhopal jail

In a complaint to the NHRC, families of suspected members of SIMI in the Bhopal central jail have alleged that prison authorities are torturing, abusing and humiliating the undertrials.

india Updated: May 24, 2017 21:17 IST
Gulam Jeelani
Gulam Jeelani
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
SIMI,NHRC,Bhopal jail
File photo of the Bhopal central jail where 21 suspected members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) are being held.(HT PHOTO)

New Delhi: Families of suspected members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) lodged in Bhopal Central jail have complained to the national Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that the inmates were being “humiliated physically assaulted and denied medical treatment” – charges which the jail authorities have rubbished.

Out of a total of 29 suspected SIMI men who were lodged in Bhopal jail since 2013, eight were killed in October 2016, allegedly in an encounter after escaping from the prison. The encounter is now under a probe.

The kin of the four of the 21 inmates — Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Javed, Mohammad Adil and Mohammad Zubair — all from Ujjain district of Madhya Pradesh, claimed that the harassment for these prisoners started after the encounter.

“We are writing to you to express grave concern and seek immediate intervention of the Hon’ble Commission in the cases of custodial torture and human rights violations of the 21 undertrial (UT) prisoners in Bhopal Jail. Several instances of torture and inhuman treatment have been reported to have been meted out to them since October 31, 2016, when eight other UTs were killed in an encounter,” read the application to the NHRC.

The application mentions instances in which Mohammad Iqrar complained of injuries in head due to torture, Abu Fazal of leg fracture and being beaten and forced to chant anti-Islam slogans and Mohammad Irfan denied medical treatment for an eye ailment.

The application on behalf of the families was signed by social activists, Kavita Srivastava and N D Pancholi of People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Manisha Sethi of Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, Mathew Jacob of People’s Watch among others.

“As per rules we get 20 minutes to meet them every fortnight. But, we are not allowed to talk to them for more than five minutes, that too in the presence of jail staff and other police personnel,” said Farzana, Adil’s wife, before submitting a petition to the National Human Rights’ Commission (NHRC).

The families alleged that the inmates are not allowed to meet their lawyers due to which the trial has dragged on.

“Irfan’s one eye is damaged and he is losing vision in another. They didn’t even allow him to see a doctor outside the jail. We have given spectacles for him twice, but they have not been handed to him,” said Zahid Hussain, Irfan’s brother.

In December 2016, the families submitted affidavits to the judicial magistrate, alleging that jail staff denied them basic requirements such as proper clothes and water.

“Mohammad Iqrar, one of the inmates, alleged in a video conference that his beard was forcibly cut in the jail. His brother-in-law Inamur Rehman filed an affidavit before the court about the harassment,” said Madhuri, a social activist who accompanied the families from Bhopal.

“Three of them have even told a trial court about the harassment but no action has been taken. In fact, they have been assaulted more for deposing,” she alleged.

Director general (DG) of jails, Sanjay Chaudhary refused to comment on the allegations but said, “We will respond to all the allegations in a proper manner when asked by the National Human Rights Commission.”

The families said that they decided to approach NHRC after exhausting all options.

“We have tried all options. We wrote to chief minister, home minister, Prime Minister Modi and the President. No one responded,” said Mohammad Aarif, Adil’s brother.

“On May 11, during a hearing at the Special Sessions court in Bhopal, Abu Fazal, another accused said his foot was fractured after he was beaten up in the jail,” Madhuri added

An official in the Central Jail, who did not want to be named, said that these allegations were false.

“They make such allegations every other day in the courts and human rights groups just to create pressure on us. Even before the jail breakout they used to make such allegations as a result of which jail staff loosened their monitoring over the SIMI inmates which gave them the space to conspire and execute the jail break,” the official said.

(With inputs from Punya Priya Mitra in Bhopal)

First Published: May 24, 2017 21:14 IST