Hyderabad: What happens inside India’s prisons is not really known to many. However, the country’s incarceration centres have a story to tell, as Sunetra Choudhury and Sunil Gupta rightly point out.
The authors of ‘Black Warrant: Confessions of a Tihar Jailer’ are of the opinion that it is the poor, who suffer the most due to a faulty criminal justice system.
“A lot of inmates are inside jails because they are poor. They are so vulnerable that they can’t even defend themselves. There are people who cannot even afford a bail amount of Rs 500. He (Sunil Gupta) has witnessed eight hangings in his lifetime, and not one rich man has ever been hanged,” said co-author Sunetra Choudhury.
From his experience of working in prisons for more than two decades, Mr Gupta, a former officer at Tihar jail, says “If one were to introspect, there is a criminal inside everyone. But the ones who are inside jails are those who do not have the means to get out, which is why 95% of the inmates do not attempt to escape. Even if they are prisoners, the Constitution guarantees them the basic right to human dignity, and no one is allowed to violate that. The prisoner is the guest and the jailer the individual’s host.”
Speaking on ‘Tales from Tihar’ at the Hyderabad Literary Fest, Sunil Gupta alleged that the suicide of Ram Singh, one of the accused in the Nirbhaya case, could be murder.
“I have reasons to believe that Ram Singh’s suicide was actually murder. If not, why was alcohol presence found in his body? Moreover, everyone said that they did not see a thing because they were sleeping, but in prisons, nobody really sleeps.”
Sunil Gupta also recalled how notorious cheat Charles Sobhraj had asked if he needed financial help, after he got briefly suspended from his job.
“Sobhraj was one of those people who managed to remain jovial, even while in jail. But the same cannot be said for a majority of the people languishing inside.”
Sunetra Choudhury further highlighted the role of the accused police officer Davinder Singh, in incriminating Afzal Guru.
“Afzal Guru had categorically named Davinder Singh in his letter. He had said that he was guilty of providing the car in Parliament attack but was under pressure from Singh. But if you bring forth this, ask questions as to why Afzal Guru did what he did, you will be labeled as a terrorist-sympathiser.”
‘Black Warrant’ is a first-hand account of Sunil Gupta’s experience as an officer at Tihar jail, wherein he speaks about Afzal Guru’s hanging, Charles Sobharaj as well as other prison inmates. The authors were speaking at the Hyderabad Literary Fest on Saturday.