Gujarat: Dalits remain victim of caste discrimination even inside jails; NHRC issues notice
Ahmedabad, Jan 8: Dalits, in streets or inside jails, often become victim of caste discrimination and victimisation. After the Una incident of July last year when four Dalits youths were flogged for allegedly skinning a dead cow, now reports have come from Amreli of the same state Gujarat that Dalit prisoners are victimised by upper caste prisoners and the jail authorities turn deaf ear to complaints. Taking suo motu cognizance of such media reports, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the IG (Prisons), Gujarat calling for a report in the matter within six weeks.
As per media reports, the prisoners belonging to lower caste are being subjected to grave injustice and discrimination inside the jail. Even, they cannot drink water from the Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant installed in the Amreli District jail. The prisoners from lower castes are victimized by the upper castes prisoners and complaints regarding this go unheard by the Jail Superintendent.
"The Commission has also observed that the Constitution of India 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 contents of the news report, if true, amount to violation of right to life, equality and dignity of the prisoners. The jail authorities being custodian of the prisoners are bound to ensure their safety and protection," said the rights panel in a media statement.
According to the media reports, carried on the 5th January, 2017, an advocate, who remained in the jail for about 110 days in the Amreli district jail as an Under Trial Prisoner has revealed the entire story based on his personal experiences. When the fellow prisoners came to know that he was involved in the agitation by the 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 in the night and ask them to massage their legs.
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 with their hand in gloves, with the jail authorities.