The Poor Condition of Indian Jails Amid the Covid-19 Crisis.

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    Indian jails
    Image by Ichigo121212 from Pixabay

    While Siddique Kappan and Umar Khalid have been tested positive for Covid, Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan have not even been tested for the virus despite showing evident symptoms as the overcrowded Mandoli prison has no testing facility. Most prisons and jails have no sanitization or facility for testing, not even proper isolation can take place as the jails are crowded beyond capacity.

    Former JNU student and leader Umar Khalid was arrested more than 6 months ago in connection with the 2020 North-East Delhi Pogrom. The former JNUSU leader showed symptoms of the virus and was tested positive last Saturday. Umar Khalid has been isolated within the Tihar jail premises. His sympathizers and friends outside have demanded that Umar be released for proper treatment as it is oppressive to treat a man of a deadly virus inside a prison with inadequate facilities.

    Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan are two other accused of the North-East Delhi violence who have been kept in the Mandoli jail in Delhi.

    “From 19 April to 23 April my husband (Khalid Saifi) has called me every day and said he had a mild fever, throat infection, cough, weakness, and headache. He was running a temperature of 101 degrees F a day ago as well. He is not being tested. I’m petrified… you see, he is a diabetes patient,” Nargis Saifi said about her husband’s deteriorating health in Mandoli jail.

    Ishrat Jahan’s sister Sarwer Jahan also described how Ishrat faced discrimination by the staff of the jail and the inmates. She also informed that Ishrat has been kept in isolation within the premises. Despite showing symptoms and being kept in isolation, Saifi and Jahan are not being tested as the jail has no facility for testing. Not even proper isolation is possible as the jail has 1000 more people than its prescribed capacity of 3776 as admitted by the DG prison himself.

    The case of Siddique Kappan, a Malayalam journalist is the most horrific of the four. Siddique Kappan was arrested by UP Police on October 5, 2020, when he was going to meet the family of the Hathras gangrape victim, a 19 years old Dalit woman who was gang-raped by four men of a superior caste, and later succumbed to her injuries. Siddique Kappan was charged under the draconian UAPA and the UP Police accused the journalist of having links with the Popular Front of India. Kappan was in Mathura jail since, but on April 21 he was diagnosed positive of Covid-19. Siddique Kappan was admitted to the KM Medical College and Hospital in Mathura. But his wife Raihanath alleged that he is not being humanely treated in the hospital. “Kappan is chained like an animal to a cot of the Medical College Hospital, Mathura, without mobility, and he could neither take food nor go to the toilet for more than four days, and is very critical. If immediate corrective steps are not taken, it will result in his untimely death,” she wrote in the letter, which was submitted to the CJI by advocate Wills Mathews.

    She also slammed the Kerala CM Vijayan for not intervening in the matter. Vijayan later did intervene and wrote a letter to the CM of UP. Today, the Supreme Court directed that the journalist be shifted to a medical facility in Delhi for his proper treatment. The Supreme Court, however, rejected the Habeus Corpus petition filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists seeking Kappan’s release. The condition of Indian jails and prisons which are already crowded beyond capacity is as worrisome or even more than the condition of the society outside. The jails are a ticking bomb waiting to explode with no proper hygiene, sanitization, isolation or testing facility.

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