Prisoners demand release of KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi & others, better healthcare facilities in jail amid COVID-19 crisis
Guwahati: To press for their various demands, including release of peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and other under-trials as requested by United Nations and other human rights organisations of international repute, and improvement in quality of food and healthcare facilities during the time of COVID-19 crisis, among others, over 1,200 prisoners in Guwahati Central Jail staged a two-day-long mass revolt and hunger strike recently.
Announcing this, Hussain Md Sahjahan, adviser of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), said that the prisoners have demanded the jail authorities to stop fresh enrolment of inmates without necessary COVID-related measures like swab testing and quarantine, etc.
Alleging that the conditions inside Guwahati Central Jail premises are increasingly pathetic, Md Sahjahan said that the social distancing norms and other guidelines are not being followed.
“The situation is becoming increasingly unbearable. The government should come to its senses and ensure the rights of all those inside jails, provide immediate health and related assistance to all those in quarantine centres and people across the state,” he added.
The eight-point charter of demands of the prisoners includes: allow visitors, particularly the lawyers and family members, to meet the inmates following Covid-19 guidelines; increase the scheduled 2 minutes of conversation time with the relatives and lawyers to at least 10 minutes and supplying of pure drinking water round the clock etc.
Some of prominent prisoners in the jail who took part in the protest starting from June 25 including peasant leaders Akhil Gogoi, Dhaijya Konwar, student leaders Bittu Sonowal, Manas Konwar, JNU student Sharjeel Imam, among others.
Gogoi, the founder of the KMSS, has completed a jail term of 200 days on June 29 along with young leaders like Bitu Sonowal, Dhaijjya Konwar and Manas Konwar. Led by Gogoi, these young leaders were at the forefront of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests that broke out in the state in early December.
“The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had also written to the Centre to free all anti-CAA political prisoners on 26 June. However, instead of releasing the under-trial prisoners due to the pandemic, which is an international human rights issue, the government has not yet responded positively but has rather brought in new inmates with no COVID tests or quarantine as per guidelines,” the KMSS adviser regretted.