Millions languish in India’s prison for bailable offense or no offense. Seventy percent of these inmates are Muslims and Dalits (untouchables). A religiously driven political elite that believes in racism and controls the judiciary and legislative and executive branches in India determines who gets bail and who does not, who lives in prison, and who gets freedom from life.
The judicial system is quick to grant bail to an upper-caste criminal accused of killing eight law enforcement officers but slow in taking up innocent detainees cases.
Dr Kafeel Khan is one such detainee. Two years ago, he was on duty at an Eastern UP Hospital when the oxygen supply failed, causing multiple infant deaths. He tried to replenish the oxygen cylinders to save as many lives as possible.
Instead of acknowledging his services, the Hindutva Indian government charged him with the deaths of children. The government imprisoned him, but the court could not find any evidence of the charges.
The government arrested him again for speaking against it. He is now languishing in jail without bail. India’s medical community is silent, political parties are quiet, and the judiciary is indifferent.
India’s human rights groups are inactive in pursuing his case. Even his community organisations are reluctant to take up his cause at a national level. He is in prison because he is a Muslim.
The government of Uttar Pradesh is Islamophobic and determined to reduce Muslims as second class citizens. Dr Kafeel is the victim of the government-sponsored religious hatred and bigotry.
Dr Kafeel recently wrote a letter from prison, where he describes the horrible living conditions in detail. Here are a few excerpts:
“I don’t know why this punishment. I don’t know when I will see my children, my wife, my mother, and my brothers and sister.” The condition inside the jail ai ‘hellish.’ He is in a prison that has a capacity of 500 prisoners but hosts 1,600.
He further explains” “With just one attached toilet, 125-150 inmates, the smell of their sweat and urine mixed with unbearable heat due to electricity cuts makes life hell over here: A living hell indeed.” The food provided in the jail is not eatable.
Drawing a picture of the overcrowded jail, he wrote, “The entire barrack seems like fish market infused with all kinds of smells including someone coughing, sneezing, farting, urinating or sweating. Some people snore, some fight, some scratch themselves”.
“I try to read but cannot concentrate. It sometimes feels that I might fall due to dizziness caused by that suffocation. So I keep on drinking water.”
His arrest is a message to all Muslims and Dalits that if they criticise the government and question the Hindutva leaders, they will lose their freedom and their lives.
It is a clear violation of the Indian constitution, international law, and fundamental human rights. Human rights activists must take up his cause to make people aware of this prisoner of conscious and bigotry of the Hindutva groups.