Tihar Jail authorities have told a Delhi court that student activist Gulfisha Khatoon, arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the north east Delhi riots in February, was allegedly aggressive and had misbehaved with the prison staff on several occasions. The submissions were made before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat during the hearing of an application filed by Khatoon alleging that she was being subjected to communal slurs and mental harassment by the prison staff.
The Tihar Jail Superintendent stated, in the reply filed to the application on October 15, that she has been given correctional punishments to mend her behaviour earlier for allegedly misbehaving with the staff. The female inmate (Khatoon) is also trying to overpower the jail staff and create nuisance in jail, her behaviour is also aggressive and troublesome. Staff has also been directed to behave politely and not to argue with the inmates. As per record the petitioner has been given correctional punishments to mend her behaviour, the reply stated.
The Superintendent further informed the court that in view of repeated complaints by Khatoon and to avoid any further unpleasantness, the duty of the staff, against whom allegations were raised, have been changed from the ward. The staff have been directed to talk to the inmates in a polite way and not to get into any argument with inmates. The duty of that staff also changed from that ward for time being to resolve the matter, the reply stated. It further said that as on October 15, 48 Muslim women inmates were lodged in Central Jail number 6, where Khatoon was lodged, and none of them made any such type of complaints. The court is informed that there is no discrimination on the basis of caste and creed. The inmates belonging to different religions, states, caste and foreigners are treated equally and without any discrimination, it added.
The reply further stated that on inquiry, it was revealed that Khatoon as well as the staff had made complaints against each other and hence both the parties were heard and counselled to follow the jail rules and maintain discipline inside the jail. It said that two other inmates, Babita and Sheetal, who were present at the time of the incident, had stated that there was an heated argument between Khatoon and the jail staff but the staff did not use any communal slur.
The argument was due to the fact that the outing time for ward number 6 was over but Khatoon was still outside taking water from the water cooler and despite being repeatedly told by the staff to finish fast, she came back to her jail after finishing her talk with another inmate, Babita and Sheetal said in their written statements. They further said that Khatoon had allegedly said that the staff was their servants, which the official had opposed.
The jail authorities further informed that Khatoon had filed several applications and her request were considered as per the prison rules. The reply stated that Khatoon has been allowed to wear headphones during e-legal interviews, jail staff was directed to put earplugs so that she can comfortably conduct her legal interviews and confidentiality of her conversation was maintained.
The petitioner had made a complaint to change the brand of milk and provide black tea to her. Her request was considered and the brand of milk was changed. Which shows there is no discrimination among the inmates and in fact jail authorities are attending to the request of the inmates as far as possible within the framework of applicable Prison Rules. That the petitioner gave an application for work of grass cutting in the park but taking her educational qualification into account, she was provided work in Crche to teach the children of inmates (lodged with their mothers). That as per the request of the petitioner and her two co-inmates, a study room was created in a cell of the ward where these inmates are lodged, the reply said. Khatoon, through her counsel advocate Mehmood Pracha, had alleged that she was being discriminated against by the staff in the jail.
She had also made the submissions directly to the court during the hearing of the case. “I have a problem in jail. Ever since I was brought here I have been constantly facing discrimination by the jail staff. They called me educated terrorist and are hurling communal slurs at me. I am facing mental harassment here. If I hurt myself, only jail authorities will be responsible for it," she has alleged. Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.