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BackYou are here: NewsIndia State Brutality knows no Frontiers: Kashmiri Prisoner in Kolkata's Guantanamo Bay

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State Brutality knows no Frontiers: Kashmiri Prisoner in Kolkata's Guantanamo Bay

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Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners(CRPP)

(On 31 October 2010, the Hindustan Times, Kolkata edition published a front-page report captioned "Kolkata's Guantanamo Bay" where it was reported that on October 15,when the entire city was celebrating Saptami during the Pujas, Sheikh Farhat Mehmood, a 29-year-old Kashmiri under-trial prisoner lodged in Presidency Jail, Kolkata, West Bengal, was stripped, tortured and kept naked throughout the night in his cell: Mehboob's offence: he protested against the quality of food and demanded his basic rights according to jail rule. Following the 'punishment', Farhat observed a two-day hunger-strike in the jail. The matter was hushed up by the Presidency jail authorities. The picture of the prisoner in a naked state was published in the paper. On the next day-1 November-the Bandi Mukti Committee(Committee for the Release of Prisoners, a human rights forum  based in West Bengal) organized a demonstration against it and took out a procession comprising about 100 people and went to the Presidency Jail gate and demonstrated. They were denied permission to meet Farhat. On 2 November 2010, the HindustanTimes, Kolkata edition came out with another report which I am sending to you all for conveying the message that state brutality knows no frontiers and that there are many Guantanamo Bays in 'the land of the largest democracy of the world' also. Such acts of brutality, sadistic torture, deserve universal condemnation and should not go unpunished.)

The said report is as follows:

"Protests over Jail Stripping" ht Impact

Kolkata: The jail department initiated a probe on Monday, even as it denied any incident of stripping of a prisoner inside Presidency Jail. On Sunday, Hindustan Times reported a case of stripping of Sheikh Farhat Megmood, a 29-year-old under-trial from Srinagar, inside his solitary cell on the night of October 15.

The situation has taken a curious turn, with the Srinagar Bar association calling a press conference at the Sadr Court at Lalchowk, Srinagar, on Tuesday to condemn the incident.

"Such incidents should be condemned and the guilty must immediately be punished. We've called a press conference to highlight the issue", said Ajaj Dadar, vice-president of the association.

"We've initiated a probe. There's been no torture or stripping. It may be that, somehow, the inmate took his own pictures on a cell phone and sent it out", said BD Sharma, ADG(Prisons) at Writers Buildings.

However, Sharma could not clarify several pertinent points. Even if his point is accepted, why would Mehboob strip himself? How could he take his own photograph when he was trying to cover himself with both hands? How could someone enter the cell of a high security prisoner with a cell phone and take his naked picture?

On the question of a cell phone being sneaked into the solitary cell, Sharma said, "We're looking into it. We have to look after so many thousand inmates and have just a handful of staff". He, however, said the department would write to the government to spped up Farhat's trial.

On Monday, human rights organization Bandi Mukti Committee demonstrated outside Presidency Jail demanding that the jail authorities stop treating inmates brutally. The organization took out a rally to protest against the incident. About 100 activists marched to Presidency Jail and demonstrated against the atrocities.

Chhoton Das, secretary of the committee, said, "We've submitted a deputation to the jail superintendent. We wanted to meet the inmate, but were not allowed. Our main demand is punishment of the person guilty of torturing Mehmood".