NHRC notice to Gujarat IG-Prisons over victimisation of Dalits

New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Gujarat‘s Inspector General of Police in charge of Prisons over alleged victimisation of Dalit prisoners by upper caste inmates in Amreli Jail, and sought a report within six weeks.

NHRC in a statement today said it has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that prisoners belonging to lower caste are being subjected to “grave injustice and discrimination inside the jail”.

According to the reports, carried on January 5, an advocate, who remained in the jail for about 110 days in the Amreli District Jail as an undertrial prisoner, has “revealed the entire story based on his personal experiences”.

Even, they (lower caste inmates) cannot drink water from the reverse osmosis (RO) plant installed in the jail. The prisoners are victimised by the upper castes prisoners and complaints regarding this “go unheard” by the Jail Superintendent, the Commission said, quoting the reports.

The Commission has also observed that the Constitution states that there should be no discrimination with anyone on the basis of caste, creed, gender and religion. “Therefore, the jails cannot be allowed to remain an exception in this regard,” the statement said.

“Reportedly, one of the Dalit inmates, when objected to the harassment, was beaten up so severely that he could not get up for days but the jail staff refused to shift him to the hospital as it would become a medico-legal case.”

“The complaints made to the Jail Superintendent are never heard by the authorities. The so-called upper caste prisoners enjoy all facilities including mobile phones and operate their network from inside the jail …,” the Commission said.

The contents of the news report, if true, amount to violation of right to life, equality and dignity of the prisoners. It has issued the notice to the IG (Prisons), Gujarat and called for a report within six weeks, the NHRC said.

It is stated in the report that the victim, Navchetan Parmar has approached many organisations including NHRC for redressal of the grievances of the Dalit prisoners but nothing is being done, the Commission added.

“When fellow prisoners came to know that he was involved in agitation by Dalits, the upper caste prisoners known as ‘Durbars’ started harassing him verbally, with comments about his caste.

“He was not allowed to drink water from the earthen pitcher which was kept nearby. The Durbars stopped him and asked him to quench his thirst from the tap in the toilet.”

“The Dalit inmates are made to wash clothes of their fellow prisoners and their utensils too. Sometimes, the upper caste ‘Durbars’ would wake up the Dalit undertrials at 2 o’clock in the night and ask them to massage their legs,” the report alleges.