Improve Jails

The latest on the India-Pakistan front is Sarabjit Singh versus Sanaullah Ranjay. Singh was a RAW agent who was on death row in Pakistan’s notorious Kot Lakhpat jail. Ranjay was a militant convicted for a series of bomb attacks in and around Jammu. Within days after Singh was declared death after a murderous attack in the jail, Ranjay, attacked by a fellow prisoner, died in Chandigarh. He was flown home and buried.

Residents of India and Pakistan, Singh and Ranjay represent a section of population of their respective countries who are being driven to deliver for national goals. They are victims of the dirty games that the two countries are playing over Kashmir. They are handled by their respective masters till they are in a position to deliver and once they land in the web, they are on their own. This doctrine of the two countries has lead to immense pain to the families these “characters” belong to.

The only difference that this episode led to was the family of Singh was adequately compensated by the central and the state governments. In case of Ranjay, Pakistan sought counselor access and was granted and his corpse was flown to his home on the other side of the Redcliff divide. Islamabad has remained sensitive to accepting the fact that its nationals are illegally getting in and resorting to many things linked to the security.

While the two countries are accusing each other of the wrongdoings with the prisoners they are holding, Kashmir was missing in the resultant discourse in recent days. This was despite the fact that Kashmir has historically known Kot Lakhpat and Kot Bhalwal is actually part of the emerging discourse of Kashmir, post militancy which emerged as one of the many addresses that is already part of the folklore.

Its emergence was one of the many results of the strife and what happened in this detention centre that was upgraded to a full fledged jail is a long story that may not have any official narrative other than the numbers. It is perhaps the only jail in J&K that witnessed a series of killings at the peak of the crisis, an incident not many know. And the tragic part of it is that nobody in the government has so far shown any interest in knowing what led to that carnage.

While expecting jails to become luxury hotels is impossible, there is a requirement to improve them as a better detention places where prisoners have access to basics permitted by the law. Over the years, the jails in J&K are less crowded barring the seasons when youth try to be visible on roads. The small jailed population must help authorities to improve the situations so that incidents like Singh and Ranjay do not happen. Otherwise these places become so jinxed that jailers finally end up in the same jail, a situation that Kot Bhawal has seen many times in last few years.


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