DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HOPE THAT THIS WILL GET FUNNY. I PROMISE YOU IT WONT.
Last December I interned with CHRI. If your GK isn’t keeping pace, CHRI stands for Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. A great NGO with a few good souls trying to make things better for the long forgotten sections of the society, including PRISONERS. You might wonder as to why do prisoners need help and I wont blame you because even I smirked when I read about it in the organisation’s web site. Let me remind you that this is a huge organisation dealing with all the commonwealth countries.
Because of my curiosity, I applied for the prison reforms department of the NGO and luckily got in. It was fun at first but then as always it got dull and utterly boring and that’s when I got this offer. I along with the department heads have to visit this tiny village/ city ALWAR in Rajasthan for a week and go to the Central Prison and conduct interviews. Off course I got hyper! Visiting a prison and that too conduct personal interviews of the DAKOOS, RAPISTS, MURDERERS, DRUG DEALERS, sounded cool to me for some alien reason.
We reached Alwar and it is looked like a moving picture to me. Exactly like you see in the paintings. Colourful turban adorned men playing cards by the street, camels, and women with pots on their head. I felt like the perfect tourist! But this is not I came here for. Atleast not completely! I was here to interview the under-trials. Under-trials mean the prisoners who have been accused of committing an offense and are not actually punished. I mean to say that their case is still going on in the court and actually not decided.
I entered the Central Prison the next day and on the outside it looked beautiful. The Jailor was good to me and it seemed like everyone respected him. There were some white KHAKI clad men who were taking care of the records. The jailor told me that these white uniformed men were actual convicts who have been given life sentence for murder, rape, dacoity. I gulped because these were the people who would be helping me out with the record keeping. They seemed innocent to me though! I still did not understand why prisoners needed protection and rights.
Hospital stretcher turned into a table and seats were provided. The 368 undertrials in the prison where alphabetically categorized, with the age group being from 15 to 80 yrs. I was ordered to just ask the questions and not get any deeper because they get very emotional especially the women. So, the stern face of mine helped or maybe it did not. You know you picture murderers, rapists, dacoits to be those rugged faced, evil shine in the eye, a big scratch on the face type, but they never are. These were really sweet people who did not even try to judge someone who didn’t know anything about their life, interviewing them. Each one of them had weird names though. KALU BHAI, MOTURAM (this was as thin as a toothpick), SALEEM a.k.a HITLER RASHEED and so on.
These people needed real help. They were here just because they were accused of something and not actually held guilty by the Court. A guy who was accused of steeling a gold chain had been waiting for the courts decision since 4 yrs, while Mr LAWBOOK clearly states that if proven guilty the maximum time of imprisonment would be 3 years! Another guy could not even sit properly and he tried to escape the looks of the jail authorities and tell me that in the police station he was beaten up and then hung from the ceiling and his legs where pulled in opposite directions till it snapped. All I could do was listen. Another guy told me that he was caught sleeping in the railway station and the police arrested him and charged him of murder and some unfinished cases. His widowed mother and sister still have no idea where he is. He is the sole bread earner of the family too. A man of 73 yrs old was here because some drugs where found on his farm. If found guilty he could be in jail for minimum 10 years to maximum life. This old man had severe gangrene and he faints every two hrs because of lack of medicine. He claims that a treatment for this is not available in the jail and the medicine he got from the previous checkup is over. His feet were literally like rotting tomatoes and he was forced to remove slippers before getting inside the interview room while I was allowed to get in with my muddied sandals! I am not saying that these people are innocent. Maybe they are lying. But the opposite cannot be ignored unless the justice cycle is complete. There was not even one who was a school graduate and were mostly illiterate. No lawyers, no clue how their case is going on in the court or are they just dusts for the legal system. Those with lawyers are looted till they have to sell off their lands to pay the fee and then one day the lawyer disappears. The magistrate sitting in court is always on leave and their case is never decided.
All we could do is interview them and then leave to our starred hotel rooms while they wait in anticipation and never loosing hopes. I and the heads managed to jot down the names of the inmates who had no lawyers and gave to the jailor. They have every right for a free lawyer which the government clearly states it provides. About the gangrene affected old man, I hope he is alive till Justice is rendered!
P.S- I don’t expect many readers for this because this is my first ever serious post and no one actually cares to read such long posts. But I wrote it for me!