Over a dozen persons accused of carrying out and conspiring in the May 13, 2008 bomb blasts in Jaipur were allegedly brutally thrashed in the Central Jail here, where they have been kept in judicial custody for more than a year, when they sought permission to offer prayers along with other prisoners in the jail compound on Id-ul-Fitr this past Monday. Two of the accused booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – Munawwar Hussain and Nazakat – have alleged in their complaint to the higher prison authorities that the jail officials, incensed over a tiff with them on their request to join Id prayers earlier in the day, dragged them out of their cells on Monday evening with the help of other “hardcore prisoners” and beat them with batons and other objects.
The jail officials and policemen on duty stormed into the cells on the pretext of searching incriminating material and desecrated religious scriptures of the accused, according to the written complaint. “We found holy books strewn across the floor with the muddy footprints on them when we returned to the cells,” it said.
Two young men from Azamgarh and one from Lucknow are lodged in the Central Jail here with the charges of masterminding and carrying out the blasts that claimed 70 lives, while there are 13 accused from three towns in Rajasthan facing the charges of being involved in the conspiracy and taking part in the activities of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
All the accused are lodged in cramped and dingy cells without ventilation, away from other prisoners in the Central Jail, and are not allowed to mingle with other prison inmates. The only time they can see the sunlight is three hours in the afternoon when they are taken out to an open verandah daily.
Director General of Prisons Omendra Bharadwaj, when contacted by The Hindu on Friday, confirmed that he had received the complaint and agreed that it had made “certain serious allegations”. “ I have shifted out the Jailer and Deputy Jailer and ordered an inquiry into the incident,” he said.
Mr. Bharadwaj said he had himself asked for a written complaint when a “group of citizens” met him on Thursday and brought the incident to his notice. A six-member delegation of Rajasthan Muslim Forum, accompanied by former Congress MLA M. Mahir Azad, had raised the issue with him and demanded immediate action in the matter.
The delegation was allowed to meet some of the accused in the prison compound and get their version. The accused reportedly told the delegation members that they were kept in isolation and constantly taunted for their religious beliefs and their alleged role in the blasts.
Jamat-e-Islami Hind State president Mohammed Salim, one of the activists who met the accused, said the complaint also made a mention of the “daily torture” of all of them for 15 continuous days in October last year, when they were blindfolded and mercilessly beaten up.
The Muslim Forum, an apex body of the community’s groups, pointed out that the chargesheet against 13 of the accused arrested from Kota, Baran and Jodhpur had not made any claim of their direct role in the blasts. The cases of SIMI membership were registered against them on the basis of confessions made by those held in neighbouring Gujarat.
The torture of the accused, who are in judicial custody and waiting for the trial that is yet to start, led to tension in Kota when their relatives returned after meeting them on Id-ul-Fitr earlier this week. Agitated people gathered outside the Ghantaghar police post in the town and demanded action against the jail officials.
Mr. Salim said this was the second round of persecution of the accused in custody, after their initial torture by the police who tortured them to extract “fake confessions”. With none of them getting bail so far, the accused are mired in a prolonged legal battle to prove their innocence.
Mohammed Iqbal, The Hindu, Sep 25, 2009