The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has served notices to the Chief Secretary and the Inspector General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh and sought a detailed report on the health status of all the prisoners of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) within four weeks.
Six SIMI members, lodged in the Bhopal Central Jail, had begun a hunger strike around a fortnight ago and later were shifted to the jail hospital. In all, 29 SIMI members are incarcerated at the Bhopal central jail.
These prisoners, who are found guilty of ‘sedition’, ‘collecting arms’ and ‘waging war against the government’, have been sentenced for life imprisonment in 2017 and 2018 by different courts, including the NIA and CBI special courts.
The commission has taken cognizance of the recent development with regard to the grievance of the prisoners and their health conditions, the NHRC said in a press conference, adding that the inmates have the right to food and dignity and the state, being their lawful custodian, cannot deny it to them in its lawful custody.
The prisoners have reportedly been demanding better food, exemption from regular frisking and freedom from high security block.
The commission said that the Jail Superintendent Dinesh Nargave has said that the prisoners are barred from coming out of the special cell as “they shout anti-national slogans and disrespect the Constitution of India, which leads to tension among other inmates of the jail”.
It is necessary that the prisoners are provided with proper food so that their immunity level remains satisfactory amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which is also necessary as per the guidelines issued by the WHO and ICMR, it said.
Meanwhile, Nargave told News18 that currently two to three SIMI operatives are at the jail hospital where they are being force-fed.
“These inmates are allowed limited mobility inside the jail campus but among other unreasonable demands, they want unlimited mobility in the jail, special newspapers, plain papers, freedom from regular frisking, participation in group namaz and so on. They also don’t stand up during the national anthem and misbehave with the jail staff regularly,” the Jail Superintendent claimed.
The inmates’ families had earlier approached NHRC over alleged torture and ill-treatment of their kin in 2018.
Human Rights Activist Madhuri Ben said, “They (prisoners) are haven’t contacted their families on e-meeting or phone since April. Every under-trial has the right to dignified treatment. They have been on hunger strike since July this year.”
The six prisoners -- Saduli PA and Shibily from Kerala, Qammruddin Nagori, Mohammad Ansar, Hafij Hussain and Safdar, natives of MP -- were earlier lodged in the Ahmedabad jail, but were shifted to the Bhopal central jail in 2017.
The security has been beefed up at Bhopal central jail after eight SIMI operatives had escaped killing a prison guard and were gunned down by security agencies hours later. Since then the remaining operatives are under high-security block and 18 of them are in solitary confinement.