Denied rights

Lack of medical facilities and unhygienic conditions inside state’s jails is putting the lives of detainees, especially those with known history of ailments, in danger. Aliya Bashir reports.

Almost all the organisations – rights groups, lawyers, etc. – who have visited jails in Jammu and Kashmir, besides released prisoners have said that jails lack basic sanitation and medical facilities and clean drinking water putting the lives of those jailed on line. However, the worst sufferers are the detainees with known history of severe ailments.

The president of High Court Bar Association Mian Abdul Qayoom, 62, who has been incarcerated under Public Safety Act (PSA) since July 6, 2010 has only one functional kidney, malfunctioning prostrate, is diabetic and has a neurological problem.

He was first lodged in Hira Nagar Jail from July 6 and on September 5 was shifted to Kotbalwal jail in Jammu after he complained of various ailments. The High Court ordered the government to make “proper medical facility available to him.”

Qayoom’s family says that he had serious urinary infection in Hiranagar jail and was admitted in GMC Jammu for a few days. “He was treated for acute prostate infection resulting in retention of urine, however the follow up treatment was not done due to non-availability of police escort, which was to be provided by district police lines,” said one of his relatives.

His lawyer, Manzoor Ahmed Dar said no laboratory testing facility is available in jail and the detainee has to be taken to Kathua, subject to the availability of escort which most of the times is not available on demand. “This at times proves fatal for a jail inmate. No specialist doctor is readily available resulting in delay in treatment,” he said.

In Kotbalwal jail, his prostate infection worsened leading to internal haemorrhage and a reduced haemoglobin of 8 gm/dl. “He is surviving on a single kidney and the untreated water made available to jail inmates results in damage to kidneys,” alleges Manzoor.

Being diabetic Qayoom, his family members say, requires insulin injections before every meal and due to the high stress in the jail the sugar level is often outside manageable limits.  They said Qayoom also suffers from neurological ailment which has resulted in right foot drop for which no medical facility is available in the jail.

Few months ago, a team of High Court Bar Association visited Hira Nagar Jail and Rajouri Jail, where two of their colleagues Mian Qayoom and G N Shaheen were detained, alleged that Jail authorities had kept them with hardcore criminals.

“The jail authorities are not providing proper facilities to Mian Qayoom and GN Shaheen as laid down in the jail manual. Their health is deteriorating and they need immediate shifting from there,” advocate Zaffar Shah said. “In Hira Nagar jail, Qayoom had been kept with 12 detainees and 49 under trials, who were involved in murder and severe offences.”

On June 29 last year, general secretary of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, 65, was booked under PSA. His family says that he is suffering from serious medical problems like a dislocated disc, thyroid gland malfunction, hearing problem and an ailing heart.

“During 1990’s when he was held in Kot Balwal Jail, a constable slapped him and he lost his hearing power in one ear and simultaneously he developed hearing problem in another ear. Then in winter of 2001 due to inadequate facilities in a Jammu jail, he suffered a paralytic attack on the left side and since then he can’t walk or  move easily,” said Junaid Sehrai, his son.

In November 2010, when Sehrai’s health deteriorated in jail as he was running high fever and vomited for days together he was shifted to SK Institute of Medical Sciences where he had to undergo angiography. He was again shifted to Srinagar Central Jail.

“My father takes 10-15 tablets in a day. There are no medical facilities available in the jail. Normally a doctor visits once in a month. His health is deteriorating badly and we are left with no option other than to visit him once or twice in a week,” Junaid said.

Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement Zaffar Akbar Bhat, was presented before the court recently. “Zaffar is suffering from different ailments and the doctors have suggested that he should be admitted to the hospital for specialized treatment. But after producing him before the court on Tuesday, the police took him back to jail instead of shifting him to the hospital for treatment,” said a spokesman of the Hurriyat Conference (M) in a statement this week. Bhat is a member of the amalgam.

The young men and juveniles incarcerated in state jails also develop serious health problems within months of incarceration. Mushtaq Ahmed Sheikh, 15, a resident of Nowhatta was arrested on April 1, and released for eight days and then arrested again and shifted to Kot Balwal jail on charges of stone-pelting. “For one and a half month he was incarcerated in Jammu where he developed severe abdominal pain and fever. Although Mushtaq was provided some Paracetamol tablets but he did not get any relief. He was not able to eat anything and the pain persisted for months and he was not treated at all,” said his mother Shahzada.

Sheikh was released last week in bad health. “As soon as he was released, I took him to a doctor where he was diagnosed for severe abdominal infection. I am very worried about his health,” said his mother.

Mushtaq, who has seven sisters, works as a bus conductor. His father has been bed-ridden after undergoing a major surgery recently.

The family members of a detained youth, Abid Ahmed Beig, 21 of Chinkral Mohalla, Habba Kadal of old city are demanding immediate release of their son from Kot Balwal Jail, Jammu on health grounds.

“In central Jail, he complained of Kidney problem, shoulder pain and backache, he was taken to a hospital and then shifted back to the jail. We requested the jail authorities that until our son is released medical facilities should be made available to him,” said his father, Ghulam Muhammad Beigh.

Abid was arrested in June and slapped with Public Safety Act and was released in December but was rearrested outside Central Jail, Srinagar and slapped with another PSA and shifted to Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu.

“My son should be released on humanitarian grounds or at least shifted to Central Jail (Srinagar) where we could visit him easily and keep a watch on his health conditions,” Ghulam Muhammad said.

If the male prisoners are denied adequate medical facilities, the plight of females is worse says advocate Shafaqat Hussain, defence counsel of Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) chief, Aasiya Andrabi and another party activist, Fahmeeda Sofi.

Andrabi and Fahmeeda Sofi were arrested on August 28 and shifted to Kot Bhalwal Jail Jammu after being booked under the PSA. “Women prisoners are left on the God’s mercy when they develop serious complications. Hardly any sort of medical aid reaches them, let alone doctors,” he said.

There are situations when a woman cannot express her illness to the male nurse, says a DeM worker. “Our chairperson has many a times requested jail authorities to keep at least one female nurse, but to no avail. There are no provisions made for female prisoners. It is so embarrassing when male staff performs everything, whether that is injections or taking blood samples,” said the DeM activist.

Andrabi is suffering from multiple diseases and at present she is having severe orthopaedic problem and is not able to stand on her feet.

A Jammu Kashmir High Court Bar Association report has said that plight of Kashmiri political detainees in various Indian jails was pathetic. The report further adds that there is no medical facility available to the prisoners and that they are given no medical care despite several of them suffering multiple ailments due to long term incarceration and neglect and torture. “For every ailment ranging from soreness of eyes to kidney stones, the prisoners are given a tablet of Paracetamol,” the report says.

A man recently released from jail, pleading anonymity, said that the treatment is delayed for months and the requisite medicines are not available. “In the jail, I once complained of tooth ache and I was provided with Paracetmol and that too expired. A local chemist visited the jail after two weeks,” said the man who was incarcerated in District Jail, Kathua for more than five months. “There are certain patients who have severe problems but they are provided with well water and half-cooked rice and dal (lentils) in each meal which further worsens their condition,” he said.

Family members of many detained persons alleged that prisoners usually don’t complain due to the fear of reprisals from the authorities. “There are many instances where inmates had to face the wrath of the officials after they complained of lack of medical or other facilities. Some inmates were not provided with food and necessary medicines for days together. So everyone fears to speak the truth,” said another recently released person.

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