Former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan on Tuesday told a court in Delhi that she was assaulted multiple times in jail and has been harassed repeatedly by other inmates, reported The Indian Express. Jahan is currently lodged at Mandoli jail in connection with the violence that broke out in North East Delhi in February.
This is the second time she told a court about being assaulted in jail. Jahan was arrested on February 26 from Khureji Khas, which was a site of protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. She was charged in first information report number 44/2020, registered at the Jagatpuri police station. She was accused of provoking the crowd to stay at the protest site. Jahan was granted bail on March 21, but was arrested again on the same day under FIR 59/2020, which contains the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act charge.
“This is the second incident in a month,” Jahan submitted in court. “In the morning today [Tuesday] at 6.30, they [inmates] beat me badly and abused me verbally. One of the inmates even slit her hand so I am punished on a false complaint. Fortunately, jail officials did not listen to them. I have given a written complaint. They keep calling me a terrorist. They also demanded money from me in the canteen.”
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat noted that the former Congress councillor was in a state of “utter fear”, and directed prison authorities to take immediate steps to provide security to her. The court also told prison officials to ensure that she was not harassed any more for submitting her complaints in court. Following this, it asked prison authorities to submit a report on Wednesday morning.
The judge also asked Assistant Superintendent of Mandoli jail whether Jahan’s claims were true, and the official confirmed them, adding that the required steps had been taken, according to PTI.
“File a detailed report about the steps taken to allay her apprehension and her fear,” the court said, according to the news agency. “Take immediate steps. I don’t want to hear that the accused was further harassed by her inmates or anybody else because she complained. I do not want to hear that the present accused is harmed in any way.”
Advocate Pradeep Teotia, representing Jahan, informed the court that Jahan had been assaulted in the past as well. He said that one of the inmates had once badly beaten her up. After the incident, a complaint was filed with the deputy superintendent, and that inmate was moved to another jail.
Teotia said two women in her cell assaulted her when she was offering her morning prayers on Tuesday, as they objected to it. The counsel claimed that they “started abusing and beating her”. The former Congress councillor also submitted that she had a medical condition for which she was not taken to a hospital and no tests were done.
Jahan said she has been harassed at the prison for the past four months, and had requested a transfer to Tihar jail. However, this request was rejected due to the coronavirus pandemic.
She said that despite the court’s intervention on Tuesday, one of the inmates had threatened her with assault again. “I called the staff and told them I was being threatened again and they said they can not plaster her face with tape,” she said during her submission via videoconferencing on Wednesday, reported The Quint.
The jail superintendent said that the woman had made the threats from her cell and did not confront Jahan. Following this, Jahan’s counsel said there were provisions to protect the modesty of a woman under the law. “Stringent and criminal action must be taken and an offence is made under Section 354 [outraging the modesty of a woman] of the IPC,” the lawyer added, according to The Quint. “You can scare my client as much as you want, but we will take these complaints up to higher authorities if needed.”
Meanwhile, advocate Rizwan, appearing for co-accused and suspended Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, told the court that most of the other accused in the case were facing discrimination in jail. “They have been declared terrorists before conclusion of the trial,” the lawyer said, according to The Indian Express. “Jail authorities behave adversely with them. Proper monitoring by the court is important in the cases, especially the conspiracy case in which the accused have been booked under the UAPA.
The court reserved its order for later on Wednesday.
The violence and the investigation
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the new citizenship law and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst in Delhi since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.
In multiple chargesheets filed in June, the police had claimed the violence in Delhi was a result of a conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. They alleged that people who had organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were the conspirators. However, the police have failed to produce video evidence so far.