Jam-packed Jammu Jails turn veggie, Kashmir Bar says

Muhammad Raafi

Srinagar

kot-bhalwal

Kashmiri detainees held in various Jammu jails are surviving on vegetarian food. This is changing the food habits of the detainees and they are feeling it manifest in increased morbidity, a report said.

The report drafted by the members of High Court Bar Association (HCBA), who were recently on a visit to jails across the state to check the conditions of inmates, said that in violation of the jail manual, the Udhampur, Kathu and Hiranagar jails are serving only vegetarian food to its inmates.

“Barring Kot Balwal jail, detainees told us everywhere that they are being given Dal Chawal as the jail authorities are not cooking non-veg which they are used to,” one of the lawyers who was part of the visiting team said. “We have heard this allegation for the first time.”

In their report that they released earlier, the Bar has mentioned names of detainees who complained about the food crisis in Udhampur and Kathua. They linked general weakness and some of the diseases to the denial of protein.

Lawyers said this is in violation of Supreme Court judgment directing the detainees from a particular region of the country with particular culture and religious affinity should be held in jails with cultural and religious homogeneity closer to their homes. Food habits are part of the culture.

After their visit, the HCBA members revealed that there are no adequate medical facilities available in the jails.

“Though many inmates have been referred for psychiatric consultation,” the HCBA report said, “but no such arrangement is available.”

Lodging of detainees from Kashmir in far-flung jails has caused immense hardship and torture to the family members and inmates, who are not able to reach these places, said Arshid Andrabi, one of the visiting HCBA member. “Most of the inmates had no meeting with the families for months together.”

This has also diminished the chances of conducting their trials in local courts where they could prove their innocence. For sending the detainees to courts, the jails are solely dependent on the local police that has to escort them.

“The inmates are hurdled like cattle in overcrowded barracks and are not allowed to interact with each other. The inmates are depressed and mentally frustrated. The attitude of jail staff is colonial,” Andrabi said.

Although the jail superintendents have written to the government that the jails are overcrowded, it is yet to take any action.

Arshid said that the young boys allegedly involved in stone pelting incidents are humiliated and tortured in jails.

“In Kot Bhalwal Jail it was reported that on the very first days of lodgment, the alleged stone-pelters were asked to remove their trousers and parade naked. They were harassed and tortured mentally.”

He said that during the first days of detention, the boys were kept in solitary confinement causing mental depression in them.

In another shocking revelation, a member of HCBA told Kashmir Life that a 66-year-old person Abdul Rashid Mir from Chogul has been lodged in Udhampur Jail. Mir was picked up from his medical shop when he tried to resist the arrest of his son.

“The man is a disabled person having undergone three surgeries in vertebrates [L1, L4, and S5 discs], diabetes, hypertension and renal problems. He is not able to bend down and only with the help of his colleagues is able to perform Wudhu. His colleagues wash his private parts,” the report reads.

DIG prisons, Muhammad Sultan Lone, while talking to Kashmir Life said that he will have to go through the report of the lawyers to make any comments on the issue.

“This should not happen and I don’t think this is happening anywhere,” Lone said.

On food related issue, Lone said a few years back some detainees tried to create disturbances in jails alleging that they were being served non-halal mutton. “To ensure that such allegations are not being raised again, some jails do not provide mutton,” Lone said, “But this is not in Kot Balwal, for instance, because you have halal mutton available.”

Lone said that ICRC team also visited these jails and they never complained anything like this.

Regarding the medical facilities, Lone said that every jail has a medical dispensary to look after the health of inmates. “Whenever need arises, a doctor from a local district hospital visits to take care of the patients.”

“I will look into the report and, if any of the allegations prove right, I will look into the matter accordingly,” he added.

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