Tihar’s sinister labyrinths– Torture, custodial deaths, negligence and rampant corruption


 — India’s high security prison has all this and much more reports G Vishnu

G Vishnu

G Vishnu , Tehelka

April 5, 20l  

Tihar jail. File Photo

After 35-year-old Ram Singh, one of the accused in the infamous 16 December Delhi gang-rape case, was found hanging in his cell in Jail No. 3 of Tihar, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called it a major lapse in security. The minister would do well to read this story.

TEHELKA has found out through interviews and testimonies of former and under-trial inmates of Tihar that torture, sodomy, custodial deaths, negligence, and rampant corruption — India’s highest security prison has all this and much more. Even though questions have been raised on the circumstances around Ram Singh’s death, nobody is surprised that it was possible in Jail No.3, which houses close to 4,000 of Tihar’s 13,000 odd inmates.

TEHELKA went through the testimonies of inmates who detailed their ordeal inside Tihar for a public interest litigation (PIL). Sample this from Samrat*: “On 14 January 2012, I was cut across my face with a sharp weapon. It is the duty of the jail officials to take care of under-trials, protecting them from inmates who have such violent behaviors. But unfortunately the jail officials often turn a blind eye to such inmates in exchange for the greed of money,” he says.

“We both are educated and know our rights. He is being subjected to torture because we decided to complain to authorities about the things that happen within those walls,” said Samrat’s wife, speaking on the condition of anonymity. She further reveals that she was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5,000 to get a relative’s name in the Mulakaat List (list of outsiders who are allowed to interact with the inmates). Another former inmate says he had to pay a bribe of Rs 50,000 to a high-ranking official to get a better place to sleep. “In a place where a pouch of tobacco that otherwise costs Rs 20 can be bought at about Rs 500, coercion becomes a skill to survive for convicts,” he says.

For 39-year-old Jacob Philip, an NRI from Dubai who had spent a decade in the USA, torture stared at him the day he entered Tihar. “I entered the designated ward on 20 September 2008. I had no place to sleep as the place was overcrowded. That night I saw 10-15 inmates beating a fellow inmate in front of everybody. I found later that he was being beaten because he had the audacity to say ‘bye’ to others after getting a bail that day,” says Jacob.

Absurdly, Jacob ended up in Tihar under the Extradition Act. Under the act, the enquiry on the accused cannot continue for more than 60 days. Yet, Jacob ended up spending three and a half years inside Tihar, until he was acquitted and finally released on February 25, 2012. “I used to help people write their bail applications and appeals. At the same time, I also knew the powerful people inside. During my time inside, I saw things I cannot even begin to describe. I can say without exaggeration that I saw at least a thousand cases of torture perpetrated on weaker inmates by stronger ones with tacit and sometimes open support from Jail authorities,” he adds. “In Tihar, nobody is accountable. Nobody is answerable. How can anybody expose anything?”

Jacob describes Tihar as a parallel world with its own set of rules. He was lodged in Jail No. 4 of Tihar. The ward behind his is 4B, a punishment cell (kisuri ward in Tihar parlance). Jacob spent countless nights hearing screams of inmates being tortured. Convicts running the ‘chakkar‘ (Control room, but also refers to torture), armed with sticks and blades, would beat up fellow inmates. Motives would range from extortion and punishment for non-conformism. Sometimes, even jail guards would join.

Mohammed Amir, who spent 10 years in Tihar as a terror accused before his acquittal in 2012, confirms all the above and more. Amir claims he was subjected to torture by fellow inmates, who attacked him at the behest of some jail officials. “You cannot expect Tihar to be a correctional facility. Everybody there has a very criminal mindset,” he said.

Three inmates also spoke about the economics of sodomy inside Tihar. “There’s forceful sex for extortion. And there’s sex that inmates often indulge in for money. Some pay in fear of forceful sex. Some indulge in sex in order to earn a little,” said a former inmate on the condition of anonymity.

Journalist Iftikhar Gilani, who documented the sinister world inside Tihar in his book My Days in Prison, agrees that Tihar is hardly a place to reform. “Here criminals are brutalised. Under-trials spend years inside and convicts run the place.India does not understand the point of having its prisons. The people who man these prisons know nothing about criminal psychology or social science — key elements for helping prisoners to reform,” he says.

Iftikhar was not merely a witness to torture. He had been wrongfully arrested, accused of being an ISI agent in June 2002 and spent close to nine months in Tihar. “I was beaten up inside the jail superintendent’s office the day I arrived there. In the subsequent days, I was put in solitary confinement. I was also made to clean the toilet with my shirt. On a particular night, when I was really sick, one of the wardens said “marne do usse” (let him die), when my fellow inmates called for help,” recalls Iftikhar.

The shocking negligence that Iftikhar recalls from his days in prison are still prevalent as is obvious from the case of Santosh Kumar, who died on 25 February last year. An inquiry report by district and sessions judge IS Mehtain has observed that Santosh died due to negligence on part of the jail authorities. Santosh had consumed acid some years ago, which damaged his oesophagus to an extent that he could never consume solid food again. He was completely dependent on a liquid diet, which was being administered using a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. Arrested in December 2010 and lodged in Tihar, Santosh was denied four liters of milk that was due to him as per court orders. By December 2011, his health had completely deteriorated. Despite the Patiala Sessions Court order, the jail authorities failed to provide him medical treatment, ignoring Santosh’s pleas. On 16 January, Santosh was taken to AIIMS where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. His treatment however started only on 7 February. Within three weeks, Santosh was dead. He had spent his last days writing letters to authorities to provide him the required medical treatment.

While the National Human Rights Commission has received a multitude of complaints regarding human rights violations and custodial deaths inside Tihar over the last five years, some inmates are battling it out in the courts. A particularly determined inmate is 60-year-old Christopher Rozario, who in a petition to the Delhi High Court, has alleged that he has been repeatedly tortured by jail authorities. Christopher claims to be a PhD holder from Cambridge and a former employee of Kerala University.

However, Sunil Kumar Gupta, Chief PRO of Tihar rubbished Christopher’s allegations. Gupta also rejected all the other assertions. “There might have been isolated instances of torture. I can guarantee that things have changed over the last year. There’s no blade-baazi these days. We have reigned in on the ‘chakkars‘ and convicts do not enjoy the same powers as earlier. We have complete transparency in place,” he said responding to TEHELKA’s queries.

Former top cop Kiran Bedi, credited with bringing several reforms feels that bringing more technology would go a long way in making Tihar a less brutal place. “Add more transparency. Bring more cameras. You won’t find corruption. You will give convicts space to reform,” she says.

G Vishnu     

 

#Delhigangrape- Prime accused Ram Singh’s ‘suicide watch’ had been lifted #joke #WTFnews


By IANSNEW DELHI

11th March 2013 04:45 PM

Ram Singh, the prime accused in the Dec 16 gang-rape case who reportedly hanged himself in the Tihar Jail, was removed from ‘suicide watch‘ a few weeks ago, officials said Monday.

The 35-year-old along with four other accused were put on ‘suicide watch’ after they stopped talking with other inmates and with each other, a Tihar official told IANS.

“The alert was lifted when we found he and others were behaving normally and were not showing any sign of depression. They were eating normally and looked ok. We then lifted the suicide watch,” the official said.

Officials refused to say when the alert was lifted but said it happened “a few weeks ago”.

Ram Singh was found hanging from the grill in his cell at around 5.45 a.m. Monday. He was warded in ward no. 5 of Jail no. 3.

He shared the cell with three other inmates, also facing trial. The prison officials refused to reveal their identity.

Officials said Ram Singh had been speaking to his prison mates till 2.30 a.m. None of them heard or saw him hanging himself.

Ram Singh was the driver of the bus in which the 23-year-old woman was raped by six males, including his younger brother.

The six, including a minor, also thrashed the woman’s friend and later threw them out of the bus bleeding and without clothes. The student died of internal injuries in Singapore two weeks later.

 

#Delhigangrape: Prime cused Ram Singh Commits suicide in Tihar Jail #Vaw


:Who was Ram Singh?

Delhi, Posted on Mar 11, 2013 a

New Delhi: Ram Singh, who was found hanging at 5 am on Monday inside his cell in the Tihar Jail, was the main accused in the Delhi gangrape-murder case in which a 23-year-old paramedical student was gangraped inside a moving bus and her friend was beaten up. He was the driver of the bus in which the girl was gangraped on December 16, 2012.

Ram Singh had refused to undergo a test identification parade after he was arrested soon after the brutal gangrape. He had also allegedly expressed apprehensions about getting justice in Delhi and wanted the trial to be shifted out of the national capital.

Ram Singh, along with other four accused in the case, was charged with murder, gangrape, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy, dacoity, unnatural sex and common intent in the case. Ram Singh was lodged in Jail No. 3 of the Tihar Jail and was reportedly under suicide watch.

His lawyer, VK Anand, said Ram Singh was under no stress and was happy with the way the trial was going. Ram Singh was not under mental stress. I do not think there was any reason for him to commit suicide.” “I am shocked to hear this news. There were security concerns, so we wanted the case to be transferred out of Delhi, but Ram Singh was not under stress,” Anand added.

Afzal Guru’s last letter to wife yet to reach her in Kashmir #humanrights


IANS | Feb 11, 2013, 08.07 PM IST

Afzal Guru's last letter to wife yet to reach her in Kashmir
Afzal Guru was hanged for his role on 2001 Parliament attack on February 9 at 8am in the Tihar Jail complex where he had lived in a solitary cell for many years.
NEW DELHI: Hours before he was to be executed, Afzal Guru penned his last letter to his wife, Tihar Jail officials said on Monday. The letter, written in Urdu, was posted on Saturday but is yet to reach his wife in Kashmir.

Speaking to IANS, officials at Tihar jail said that Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, was told on February 8 evening that he would be hanged the next morning.

“When he was told about his execution, he was cool and calm. He just expressed his wish that he wants to write a letter to his wife. The jail superintendent gave him a pen and paper,” an official told IANS under condition of anonymity.

“He wrote the letter in Urdu, which was posted to his family in Kashmir on the same day,” the official said. However, when IANS contacted the family, who live in Sopore, they said they are yet to receive it.

“We haven’t received this letter. Maybe like the letter that we got today about his hanging, we will get it later,” Yaseen Guru, Afzal’s cousin, told IANS on phone.

Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9 at 8am in the Tihar Jail complex where he had lived in a solitary cell for many years.

His family has demanded that they be allowed to conduct his last rites.

“The government will take a decision in this regard,” another official told IANS.

Afzal Guru, who used to spend his time in the jail by reading and writing, has left behind many books and hand-written articles.

The family has asked the jail authorities that all his belongings should be returned to them.

“The government will have to take a decision on this issue,” the official added.

 

In Tihar, officials feel ‘tinge of sorrow’ #Afzalguru #deathpenalty


10 February 2013 , By Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar , tehelka

‘Al vida’, said Afzal Guru to his executioner, who had himself bid him good bye with the same words a few seconds earlier. And then as the executioner pulled a lever, Afzal’s frame hung from the gallows.

“He was dead in a minute, though”, as per the jail norms, the body was kept hanging for a full half hour, said an official who witnessed the hanging. Thereafter Afzal’s body was taken down from the gallows and buried with full religious rites near Jail No. 3, right next to the grave of Kashmiri separatist Maqbool Butt who too was hanged in Tihar.

“But there is a difference between the two. While Butt was a separatist leader, Afzal never spoke about secession of Kashmir from India. In fact, he used to tell us that he had been unnecessarily dragged into this. In fact, he actually believed in ridding India of corruption,” the official added. He spoke to The Hindu on condition he not be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

While right-wing activists across the country celebrated Afzal’s execution, in the jail itself there was no celebration. Rather, the staff appeared glum. “He was a pious soul and was extremely well behaved. Even as he was being taken to the gallows, he greeted the jail staff he knew by their first names. The only thing he requested before the hanging was that ‘mujhay ummeed hai aap mujhay dard nahin karaogay’ (I hope you will not cause me pain). And he was assured by the executioner, who himself was overcome with emotion as he kept looking into his eyes as the black cloth was drawn over them, that it would be a smooth journey. And so it was.”

Contrary to some media reports, Afzal was told of his impending execution on the actual morning and not the previous evening.

“The only thing he had in the morning was a cup of tea. But that is because he was not offered any food. Otherwise, he was so normal that he would have had that too.” Initially Afzal was wearing a pheran, or Kashmiri gown. He later took bath and changed into a white kurta-pyjama and offered namaz.

“There have been about 25 executions in Tihar and senior officials [here] have witnessed the last 10, but never have they seen a man so calm and composed on learning the news of his impending death.”

In the last couple of hours of his life, Afzal had the company of some jail officials. And he narrated to them his thoughts about life and death. “He spoke of universal brotherhood and oneness of the mankind; how no human being is bad and how the soul in each one was a creation of the same God. He believed that if you moved on the path of truth, that was the biggest achievement.”

In fact, Afzal was so calm in the morning that he even penned down some of his thoughts, put the date and time on the paper and signed it.

When asked by the jail staff about his last thoughts of his family, on who would take care of them, Afzal said “it was God who looks after each one of us and so would be the case now”.

“His strength came from his spirituality. He was a learned man; as well versed in Islam as with Hinduism. Often, he would tell us about the similarities in the two religions. Some time ago he had read all the four Vedas. How many Hindus have actually done that? You normally rejoice at the end of evil, [but] when a pious soul goes away, it leaves behind a tinge of sorrow,” the official said.

Recalling, how all through Afzal was “joyful” as also “cool and calm”, the officials said in the past they have seen people shiver at being told about their being taken to the gallows. “But here it was just like what we had heard about people going to the gallows smiling.”

Another difference between Afzal and others who were executed for terrorist crimes terrorists, the official said, was that while almost all others had made religious or political cries before being hanged, Afzal just walked the last 100 steps from his cell to the gallows as he normally would and went away wishing those around him.

 

Press Release-Iftikhar Gilani , Kashmiri Journalist harassed again


New Delhi: Press Council chairman Justice Markandey Katju has hit out at the Union Home Ministry over detention of Kashmiri journalist Iftikhar Gilani. In a hard-hitting letter to Union Home Secretary RK Singh, Katju condemned Iftikhar’s detention and said that policemen who were involved in the “illegal act” should be suspended and prosecuted.

Iftikhar, son-in-law of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and his family were on Saturday detained by Delhi Police a few hours after Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged in Tihar Jail. They were, however, released later.

The Editors Guild of India also condemned his detention saying the Delhi Police owned him an apology. “The police gave no reason for their unwarranted action. It is a matter of relief that he was released after protests by various journalist bodies and individual journalists, and the resultant intervention by the ministry of home affairs,” the Guild said in a statement on Sunday.

DELHI UNION OF JOURNALISTS
Flat No.29, New Central market, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001.
Phone: 23413459, email: duj.delhi@gmail.com

February 10, 2013

Press Release

The Delhi Union of Journalists condemns the unwarranted and blatantly illegal action of the Delhi Police in detaining renowned journalist and well known writer, Iftikhar Gilani and the harassment to his family on February 9, 2013.

We take stern note of the fact that this is not the first time that Gilani has been subjected to this sort of agony and trauma.

On receiving information of Gilani’s illegal detention, the DUJ General Secretary, S K Pande tried to get in touch with the Delhi Police Commissioner and other concerned authorities, in vain. The Commissioner’s office informed that the Commissioner was unavailable, while other officers played hide and seek.

The Delhi Union of Journalists will be organizing a protest meeting in consultation with other journalists and press bodies in Delhi.

In the meanwhile, the DUJ calls for immediate action against the police officials responsible for this manifestly illegal act of detaining Gilani.

(S K Pande)
General Secretary

 

A rare interview of Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail – And I was condemned to death #deathpenalty #Kashmir


The media constantly played the tape.The police officers received awards.

Hear the other side too. In 2006, Vinod K. Jose met Afzal Guru inside Tihar jail for a rare interview. These are the edited excerpts…

Posted On Sunday, February 10, 2013 , Mumbai Mirror cover story

A rusted table, and behind it, a well-built man in uniform holding a spoon in his hand. Visitors, all of them looked habituated to the procedure, queued up to open their plastic bags containing food, allowing it to be smelled, sometimes even tasted. The security man’s spoon swam through curries thick with floating grease – malai kofta, shahi paneer, aalu baingan, and mixed vegetables.

As the visitors opened tiny bags of curries, the spoon separated each piece of vegetable from the other mechanically. After ‘frisking’ the food of a middle-aged woman, the spoon was dipped in water in a steel bowl nearby. It then moved to the plastic bags of the next person in the queue, a boy in his early teens.

By this time, the water in the steel bowl had acquired all kinds of colours, the floating oil setting off rainbow hues in the light of the winter afternoon.

Around 4.30 pm, it was my turn. The man left the spoon on the table and frisked my body, top to bottom, thrice, thoroughly. When the metal detector made a noise, I had to remove my belt, steel watch, and keys.

The man on duty bearing the badge of the Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) looked satisfied. I was allowed to enter now. This was the fourth security drill I had to go through to get into the High Risk Ward of Prison No. 3 in Tihar Central Prison. I was on my way to meet Mohammad Afzal, one of the most talked about men in contemporary times.

I entered a room with many tiny cubicles. Visitors and inmates were separated by a thick glass and iron grills. They were connected through microphones and speakers fixed on the wall. But the audibility was poor, and people on either sides of the glass strained their ears, touching them to the wall to listen to each other. Mohammad Afzal was already at the other side of the cubicle.

His face gave me an impression of unfathomable dignity and calmness. He was a slight, short man in his mid-thirties, wearing a white kurta-pyjama, with a Reynolds pen in his pocket. A very clear voice welcomed me with the utmost politeness.

“How are you, sir?”

I said I was fine. Was I to return the same question to a man on deathrow? I was apprehensive for a second, but I did. “Very fine. Thank you sir,” he answered with warmth. The conversation went on for close to an hour, and continued a fortnight later with a second mulakat. Both of us were in a hurry to answer and ask whatever we could in the time we had. I continuously scribbled in my tiny pocket book. He seemed to be a person who wanted to say a lot of things to the world. But he often reiterated his helplessness to reach people from the current stature of ‘condemned for life’. Excerpts of the interview.

There are so many contradicting images of Afzal. Which Afzal am I meeting? Is it? But as far as I’m concerned there is only one Afzal. That is me. Who is that Afzal?

(A moment’s silence.)

Afzal is a young, enthusiastic, intelligent, idealistic young man. Afzal, a Kashmiri influenced, like many thousands in the Kashmir Valley, in the political climate of early 1990s.

Who was a JKLF member and crossed over to the other side of Kashmir, but in a matter of weeks got disillusioned and came back and tried to live a normal life, but was never allowed to do so by the security agencies, who inordinate times picked me up, tortured the pulp out of me, electrocuted me, dipped in petrol, smoked in chillies you name it.

And falsely implicated in a case, with no lawyer, no fair trial, finally condemned to death. The lies the police told was propagated by you in the media. And that perhaps created what the Supreme Court referred to as “collective conscience of the nation”. And to satisfy that “collective conscience”, I’m condemned to death. That is the Mohammad Afzal you are meeting.

(After a moment’s silence, he continued.)

But I wonder whether the outside world knows anything about this.

Can we begin with your life? Your life before the case…

It was a turbulent political period in Kashmir when I was growing up. Maqbool Bhatt was hanged. The situation was volatile. The people of Kashmir decided to fight an electoral battle once again to resolve the Kashmir issue through peaceful means. Muslim United Front (MUF) was formed to represent the sentiments of Kashmiri Muslims for the final settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Administration at Delhi was alarmed by the kind of support that MUF was gaining, and in the consequence, we saw rigging in the election on an unprecedented scale.

And the leaders who took part in the election and won by a huge majority were arrested, humiliated and put behind bars. It is only after this that the same leaders gave the call for armed resistance. In response, thousands of youth took to armed revolt. I dropped out from my MBBS studies in Jhelum Valley Medical College, Srinagar.

I was also one of those who crossed to the other side of Kashmir as a JKLF member, but was disillusioned after seeing Pakistani politicians acting the same as the Indian politicians in dealing with Kashmiris.

I returned after few weeks. I surrendered to the security forces, and you know, I was even given a BSF certificate as a surrendered militant. I began to start life anew. I could not become a doctor but I became a dealer of medicines and surgical instruments on commission basis. (Laughs.)

With the meagre income, I even bought a scooter and also got married. But never a day passed by without the scare of Rashtriya Rifles and STF men harassing me. If there was a militant attack somewhere in Kashmir, they would round up civilians, torture them to pulp. The situation was even worse for a surrendered militant like me. They detained us for several weeks, and threatened to implicate us in false cases and we were let free only if we paid huge bribes…

Once, I had to bribe the security men with all that I had to escape from the Humhama STF torture camp. DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Davinder Singh supervised the torture. One of their torture experts, Inspector Shanti Singh, electrocuted me for three hours until I agreed to pay Rs 1 lakh as bribe. My wife sold her jewelry and for the remaining amount, they sold my scooter.

I left the camp broken, both financially and mentally. For six months I could not go outside home because my body was in such a bad shape. I could not even share the bed with my wife as my penile organ had been electrocuted. I had to take medical treatment to regain potency…

If you could come to the case, what were the incidents that led to the Parliament attack case?

After all the lessons I learned in STF camps, which is either you and your family members get harassed constantly for resisting, or cooperate with the STF blindly, I had hardly any options left, when DSP Davinder Singh asked me to do a small job for him. That is what he told, “a small job”. He told me that I had to take one man to Delhi.

I was supposed to find a rented house for him in Delhi. I was seeing the man first time, but since he did not speak Kashmiri, I suspected he was an outsider. He told his name was Mohammad (Mohammad is identified by the police as the man who led the five gunmen who attacked Parliament. All of them were killed by the security men in the attack).

When we were in Delhi, Mohammad and I used to get phone calls from Davinder Singh. I had also noticed that Mohammad used to visit many people in Delhi. After he purchased a car, he told me now I could go back and gave me Rs 35,000 saying it was a gift. And I left for Kashmir for Eid.

When I was about to leave to Sopore from Srinagar bus stand, I was arrested and taken to Parimpora police station. They tortured me and took me to STF headquarters, and from there brought me to Delhi.

In the torture chamber of the Delhi Police Special Cell, I told them everything I knew about Mohammad. But they insisted that I should say that my cousin Showkat, his wife Navjot, S A R Geelani and I were the people behind the Parliament attack.

They wanted me to say this convincingly in front of the media. I resisted. But I had no option than to yield when they told me my family was in their custody and threatened to kill them. I was made to sign many blank pages and was forced to talk to the media and claim responsibility for the attack by repeating what the police told me to say…

Rajbeer Singh allowed me to talk to my wife the next day. After the call, he told me if I wanted to see them alive I had to cooperate. Accepting the charges was the only option in front of me if I wanted to see my family alive, and the Special Cell officers promised they would make my case weak so I would be released after sometime. Then they took me to various places and showed me the markets where Mohammad had purchased different things. Thus they made the evidence for the case.

The police made me a scapegoat in order to mask their failure to find the mastermind of the Parliament attack. They have fooled the people. People still don’t know whose idea it was to attack Parliament. I was entrapped into the case by Special Task Force (STF) of Kashmir and implicated by the Delhi Police Special Cell.

The media constantly played the tape. The police officers received awards. And I was condemned to death.

Why didn’t you find legal defence?

I had no one to turn to. I did not even see my family until six months into the trial. And when I saw them, it was only for a short time in the Patiala House Court. There was no one to arrange a lawyer for me. As legal aid is a fundamental right in this country, I named four lawyers whom I wished to have defended me. But the judge, SN Dhingra, said all four refused to do the case.

The lawyer whom the court chose for me began by admitting some of the most crucial documents without even asking me what the truth of the matter was. She was not doing the job properly, and finally she moved to defend another fellow accused. Then the Court appointed an amicus curie, not to defend me, but to assist court in the matter. He never met me. And he was very hostile and communal. That is my case, completely unrepresented at the crucial trial stage.

What is the condition in jail?

I’m lodged in solitary confinement in the high risk cell. I’m taken out from my cell only for a short period during noon. No radio, no television. Even the newspaper I subscribe to reaches me torn. If there is a news item about me, they tear that portion apart and give me the rest.

Apart from the uncertainty about your future, what else concerns you the most?

…Global developments. I took to the news of the execution of Saddam Hussain with utmost sadness. Injustice, so openly and shamelessly done. Iraq, the land of Mesopotamia, the world’s richest civilisation, that taught us mathematics, to use a 60-minute clock, 24-hour day, 360-degree circle, is thrashed to dust by the Americans…

Which books are you reading now?

I finished reading Arundhati Roy. Now I’m reading Sartre’s work on existentialism. You see, it is a poor library in the jail. So I will have to request the visiting Society for the Protection of Detainees and Prisoners Rights (SPDPR) members for books.

There is a campaign in defence for you…

I am really moved and obliged by the thousands of people who came forward saying injustice is done to me. The lawyers, students, writers, intellectuals, and all those people are doing something great by speaking against injustice. The situation was such at the beginning, in 2001, and initial days of the case that it was impossible for justice-loving people to come forward.

When the High Court acquitted SAR Geelani, people started questioning the police theory. And when more and more people became aware of the case details and facts and started seeing things beyond the lies, they began speaking up.

Members of your family have conflicting opinions on your case?

My wife has been consistently saying that I was wrongly framed. She has seen how the STF tortured me and did not allow me to live a normal life. She also knew how they implicated me in the case. She wants me to see our son, Ghalib, growing up. I have also an elder brother who apparently is speaking against me under duress from the STF. It is unfortunate what he does, that’s what I can say.

See, it is a reality in Kashmir now, what you call the counter insurgency operations take any dirty shape – that they field brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour. You are breaking a society with your dirty tricks.

What comes to your mind when you think of your wife, Tabassum, and son, Ghalib?

This year is the tenth anniversary of our wedding. Over half that period I spent in jail. And prior to that, many a time I was detained and tortured by Indian security forces in Kashmir. Tabassum witnessed both my physical and mental wounds. Many times I returned from the torture camp, unable to stand, all kinds of torture… She gave me hope to live. We did not have a day of peaceful living. It is the story of many Kashmiri couples…

What do you want him to grow up as?

Professionally, if you are asking, a doctor. Because that is my incomplete dream. But most importantly, I want  him to grow without fear. I want him to speak against injustice. That I am sure he will be. Who else knows the story of injustice better than my wife and son?

(While Afzal continued talking about his wife and son, I could not help but recollect what Tabassum told me when I met her outside the Supreme Court in 2005, during the case’s appeal stage. While Afzal’s family members remained in Kashmir, Tabassum dared to come to Delhi with her son, Ghalib, to organise defence for Afzal.

Outside the Supreme Court New Lawyers chamber, at the tiny tea stall on the roadside, she chatted in detail about Afzal. While sipping and complaining about the excess sugar in the tea, she talked about how Afzal enjoyed cooking.

One picture she painted struck me. It was one of the few precious private moments in their lives: when Afzal would not allow her to enter the kitchen, but would make her sit on the chair nearby and he would cook, holding a book in one hand, a ladle in the other and read out stories for her.)

If I may ask you about the Kashmir issue, how do you think it can be solved?

First, let the government be sincere to the people of Kashmir. And let them initiate talk with the real representatives of Kashmir. Trust me, the real representatives of Kashmir can solve the problem. But if the government considers the peace process as a tactic of counter insurgency, then the issue is not going to be solved. It is time some sincerity is shown.

Who are the real people?

Find out from the sentiments of the people of Kashmir. I am not going to name x, y or z. And I have an appeal to the Indian media; stop acting as a propaganda tool. Let them report the truth. With their smartly worded and politically loaded news reports, they distort facts, make incomplete reports, build hardliners, terrorists et al. They easily fall for the games of the intelligence agencies…

Also, you tell me how are you going to develop real trust among Kashmiris when you send out the message that India has a justice system that hangs people without giving them a lawyer, without a fair trial?

Nine security men were killed in the Parliament attack. What is it that you have to tell their relatives?

In fact, I share the pain of the family members who lost their dear ones in the attack. But I feel sad that they are misled to believe that hanging an innocent person like me would satisfy them. They are used as pawns in a completely distorted cause of nationalism…

(An ear-splitting electric bell rang. I could hear hurried conversations from the neighbouring cubicles. This was my last question to Afzal.)

What do you want to be known as?

(He thought for a minute, and answered)

As Afzal, as Mohammad Afzal. I am Afzal for Kashmiris, and I am Afzal for Indians as well, but the two groups have an entirely conflicting perception of my being. I would naturally trust the judgment of Kashmiri people, not only because I am one among them, but also because they are well aware of the reality I have been through, and they cannot be misled into believing any distorted version of either a history or an incident.

I was confused by this last statement of Mohammad Afzal, but on further reflection, I began to understand what he meant. This was a time before clear accounts of the strife had begun to emerge from Kashmiri voices; the source of knowledge on Kashmir for most Indians were textbooks and media reports. To hear about the history of Kashmir and incidents in the state from a Kashmiri was usually a shock to most Indians – as it was to me as I listened to Afzal.

Two more bells. It was time to end the mulakat. But people were still busy conversing. The microphone was put off. The sounds from the speaker stopped. But if you strained your ear, and watched his lip movements, you could still hear him. The guards made rough round-ups, asking everyone to leave. As they found visitors reluctant to leave, they put the lights off. The mulakat room turned dark.

In the long walk out from Jail No 3 of the Tihar jail compound to the main road, I found myself in the company of people in clusters of twos and threes, moving out silently – mother, wife and daughter; or brother, sister and wife; or friend and brother; or someone else. Every cluster had two things in common.

They carried an empty cotton bag back with them. Those bags had stains of malai kofta, shahi paneer and mixed vegetables, many caused by the spills from the rash frisking of the TSP man’s spoon. The second thing in common, I observed, was that they all wore inexpensive winter clothes, torn shoes, and outside Gate No 3 they waited for Bus No 588, the Tilak Nagar-Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium bus, that perhaps took them to Dhaula Kuan main junction – they were the poor citizens of this country.

I remembered former president Abdul Kalam’s musing on how poor people were the awardees of capital punishments. My interviewee was also one. When I had asked him how many ‘tokens’ (the form of currency allowed in the jail) he had, he said “enough to survive”.

The writer, now the Executive Editor of The Caravan magazine conducted this interview when he was the India reporter for the US public radio, Pacifica

► DSP Davinder Singh asked me to do a small job for him. I had to take one man to Delhi, rent a house for him

► I am Afzal for Kashmiris, and I am Afzal for Indians as well, but both have an entirely conflicting perception of my being

 

 

PUCL statement on execution of Afzal Guru #deathpenalty



PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

 

270-A, Patpar Ganj, Opposite Anand Lok Apartments (Gate No. 2), Mayur Vihar-I, Delhi 110 091

Phone: (011) 2275 0014                 PP FAX: (011) 4215 1459

 

Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan; Founding President: V M Tarkunde

PresidentPrabhakar Sinha (Bihar); General SecretaryV Suresh (TN & Puducherry); Treasurer: Ritu Priya, Delhi.
Vice-Presidents: (all names in alphabetic order) Binayak Sen (Chhattisgarh); P. B. D’Sa (Karnataka); Ravi Kiran Jain (U.P.); Sanjay Parikh (Delhi). Secretaries:Chitaranjan Singh (U.P.); Kavita Srivastava (Ms) (Rajasthan); Mahi Pal Singh (Delhi)

 E.mails: <puclnat@gmail.com> & <puclnat@yahoo.com>       Please visit PUCL website at <www.pucl.org>

 D: \Emta                                                                                                                                            Please always use Pin Code

 

PUCL Statement on the Hanging of Afzal Guru

N. Delhi, 09.02.2013

 

The PUCL condemns the hanging of Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail early in the morning (9.2.2013) today.

 

The tearing hurry with  which Afzal Guru was hanged, accompanied by the flouting of all established norms by not giving his family their legal right to meet him before taking him to the gallows, clearly indicates that there were political considerations behind taking this step. More shameful is the explanation of the Home department that the wife and family of Afzal Guru were intimated of the hanging by a mail sent by Speed Post and Registered Post. Decency and humanity demanded that the Union Government give prior intimation to the family and an opportunity to meet him. Such a surreptitious action of the government also deprives the family of Afzal Guru to right to seek legal remedy.

 

PUCL also condemns the repressive stand of the Delhi police in not allowing a group of people who were protesting against the hanging and detaining them in police stations. We are equally concerned by reports that right-wing goons were permitted by the police to use violence against the protestors. PUCL asserts the right of citizens to dissent and express their opposition to capital punishment in a peaceful manner.

 

PUCL reiterates its demand for the abolition of the death penalty. PUCL is of the view that India must not retain in its statute book something so abhorrent to human rights as the death penalty. More especially, when more than one hundred and fifty countries have banned or put a moratorium on it.  PUCL feels that as the land of Buddha and Gandhi, death penalty has no place.

 

PUCL feels that starting with Kasab, now with Afzal Guru, the country is going to witness a spate of executions. We give a call to the nation to break this spiral of executions.

 

 

Prabhakar Sinha (President)                 V Suresh (General Secretary)

 

Press Release-Statement on execution of Afzal Guru


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

 

09/02/13

Condemn strongly the illegal act of executing Mohd. Afzal Guru!

Condemn and expose the violation of all procedures and law of the land!

Release SAR Geelani the working president of CRPP immediately and unconditionally!

 

The CRPP condemns strongly the illegal execution of Mohd. Afzal Guru. The central home minister and the home secretary have gone on record saying that every procedure has been followed in the case of Afzal Guru. None of his family members are aware of this decision of the Government of India. Nor do the lawyers of Afzal Guru. It is mandatory on the side of the government to inform the petitioners who had filed the clemency petition. Afzal’s wife Tabassum had filed a clemency petition demanding justice for her husband who never throughout the trial got an opportunity to defend himself and demand justice. She had in that petition even traced his early days in Kashmir and how he was continually being harassed and tortured by the notorious STF of J&K to act as an informer for the state. She showed in that petition how the ordeal has still been continuing in the life of her husband and their family in their quest for justice. The fact remains that neither Tabassum nor any of her family members have been informed about the rejection of this petition.

 

It is absolutely necessary that once a clemency petition is rejected the petitioner should be informed so that s/he can take recourse to other provisions that are guaranteed by the judiciary of India. There are provisions for judicial review which are quite exhaustive. But Afzal Guru was denied once again his last chance to represent himself and get relief from the gallows.

 

It should be noted that Mr. Bhullar who is also under death row in Tihar Jail had moved a petition in the Supreme Court to look into the matter of the delay in the execution of death sentence. There are case laws in the apex court wherein pronounced delay in the execution of death sentence is in itself grounds for converting the same into life. The court had appointed Mr. Ram Jethmalani as the amicus curiae in this case and was hearing the petition. That the Government of India under the Congress government has even subverted the Supreme Court in clandestinely executing the death sentence bemoans the real, fascist nature of this government which has scant regards for its own judiciary and law.

 

The clandestine execution of the death sentence of Mr. Afzal Guru violating all procedures and even the law of the land is nothing but desperate attempts of the ruling class parties like the Congress and the BJP to bet for votes appealing to the frenzy of jingoism. After having alienated the masses of the people and even the middle class through their anti-people, pro-market policies resulting in widespread miseries for the working people these parties have lost their faces and credibility and hence this desperate, brazen display of competitive jingoism on the life of someone who from the day one had never a chance to defend himself properly.

 

We at the CRPP appeal to all the democratic and progressive sections of the subcontinent to see through these devious designs of the ruling classes and forge a mass movement to abolish the evil of death penalty from the subcontinent.

 

The CRPP protests against the arrest of Prof.SAR Geelani who is our Working President while on his way to Malviya Nagar by the notorious Special Cell of the Delhi Police. The Special Cell as usual is browbeating in every possible way to terrorise the people from expressing their dissent against the clandestine execution of Mr. Afzal Guru. We demand his immediate and unconditional release. We call upon all progressive and democratic sections to protest against such fascist designs of the Indian state.

 

In Solidarity,

 

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

 

PA Sebastian

Vice President

 

MN Ravunni

Vice president

 

Rona Wilson

Secretary Public Relations

#India -Afzal Guru, Parliament attack convict, hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail #deathpenalty, protest today at Jantar Mantar


JOIN SILENT PROTEST AT  JANTAR MANTAR TODAY at 1.00pm AGAINST THE HANGING OF AFZAL GURU

Edited by Surabhi Malik | Updated: February 09, 2013 08:46 IST

Afzal Guru, Parliament attack convict, hanged in Delhi's Tihar Jail

New DelhiAfzal Guru, convicted for his role in the attack on Parliament in 2001, has been executed at about 8 this morning at Delhi’s Tihar Jail.The Home Ministry had recommended the death sentence for Guru on January 23, sources said, and President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition a few days ago, clearing the way for his hanging.

Nine years ago, in 2004, Afzal Guru was given the death sentence by the Supreme Court. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on October 20, 2006, but was stayed after his wife filed the mercy petition, which had been pending with the President’s office since.

The main opposition party, the BJP, has for long questioned the delay in the execution of Guru. Senior Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh too said that a decision must come soon. But activists and political groups in Kashmir have argued that Guru was not given a fair trial. There have been many requests that his death sentence be commuted.

Afzal Guru is from Sopore in Kashmir and curfew has been imposed there and in other major towns in the valley, including Srinagar, just 35 kms away.  The army is on high-alert.

Separatist groups in Kashmir have earlier warned against Guru’s execution and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has repeatedly stressed that it could have serious repercussions in his state. Mr Abdullah is in Delhi and is leaving for Srinagar immediately.

In December 2001, five heavily-armed terrorists drove into the Parliament complex and opened fire. Nine people were killed, most of them members of the security forces. All the terrorists were shot dead.

Both Houses of Parliament had just been adjourned and many MPs and ministers, including then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani were still inside.

A few days later, Afzal Guru was arrested.

In November last year, Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist from Pakistan who was caught during the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, was executed in a Pune jail.