High Court Bar Association (HCBA) has decried use of "force" on inmates of Baramulla jail.
In a statement HCBA spokesperson said prompted by newspaper reports that the inmates of District Jail Baramulla have gone on hunger strike on account of having been "thrashed" by the jail staff and the police, its five member team headed by Bashir Sidiq, General Secretary HCBA besides of Anwar-ul-Islam Shaheen, Joint Secretary, Arshid Andrabi, Bilal Ahmad Wani and Nasir Qadri, Advocates, visited District jail Baramulla on November 4 and after they were permitted to meet the inmates.
"The team had a detailed interaction with them, in presence of the jail staff. The members were told by the inmates that on the fateful day of 01.11.2016 at around 11:00 a.m., the inmates of barrack no. 07, noticed that the condition of one Abdul Lateef Katoo was deteriorating, because of pain in his chest. Earlier the doctors has diagnosed him as a case of chronic hypertensive cardiovascular disturbed condition and he was also found to have deranged lipid profile and problems related to prostate. The inmates after seeing his condition deteriorating, carried him to the main gate and called the Santeries and implored that some medical treatment may be arranged for Abdul Lateef Katoo," the HCBA general secretary Bashir Sidiq said.
"The response was however rude and inhuman, which increased the panic and anger among the inmates. Instead of pacifying the inmates and taking the ailing Abdul Lateef to hospital, the attitude of Santeries on duty grew more and more harsh. Seeing the worsening condition of their inmate, the other prisoners raised hue and cry, but instead of listening to them, the officials on duty, called the local police. Soon a contingent of police from SOG arrived in the jail and entered all the barracks and started giving a beating to all those, who came in their way. The beating resulted in serious injuries to many of the prisoners, including one, a 78-year old person namely Ghulam Mustafa, whose hand was broken and one more person received head injury," Sidiq added.
The team said there are 129 prisoners in Baramulla Jail out of whom 9 are females. It said there are 16 PSA detenues out of whom two are females. The remaining are undertrial prisoners.
"The Jail superintendent told the Bar team that she was on leave on 01.11.2016, as she had to go to her home in connection with Diwali festival. She stated that while she was at her home, she heard about the incident and rushed back to the jail. She stated that the inmates in the jail are feeling frustrated and are under mental stress due to the prevailing circumstances outside and the failure of the authorities to take them to the courts for trial. She as well as the other inmates stated that no inmate has been taken to the court since 07.05.2016 in connection with the cases pending against them," it said.
"The main reason it was stated is that the jail authorities are at the mercy of the district police for providing them the escort, for taking the prisoners to the courts. Since the escort has not been provided by the police, therefore, the prisoners have not been taken to the courts on the dates fixed in their cases. It was admitted that the non-taking of the prisoners to the courts in connection with the cases pending against them has violated their basic rights of fair and speedy trial, which has added to their frustration and agony," the team said.
"The jail superintendent was told by the visiting members of the team that when a person is lodged in a jail, he does not cease to be a human being. He is not also stripped of the rights guaranteed to him by law. She was told that while in jail, the prisoner retains all the safeguards available to all the human beings and his rights are therefore, to be respected and protected by one and all. The jail superintendent assured the bar team, that she will do whatever possible for ensuring the safety and security of the inmates and she will also take up the matter regarding the providing of medical aid and care to them with the higher authorities," it said.
"The bar team requested the inmates to break their hunger strike as it was only going to harm them. It was with great persuasion that the inmates agreed to call off their hunger strike. The team members assured the prisoners that they will take up their issues before the High Court and obtain orders for the redressal of their grievances," it added.