Muslim Inmate Branded with ‘Om’ Symbol in Tihar Jail; Delhi HC orders Inquiry

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: April 21, 2019
The Delhi High Court (HC) has ordered the Director General of the Tihar Jail to conduct an inquiry after a Muslim undertrial, Nabbir alias Popa, was branded with an ‘Om’ symbol on his back and denied food for two days by the Tihar Superintendent of Jail No. 4, Rajesh Chauhan.

Anti Muslims

On April 12, the victim had complained to Chauhan about the induction stove of his barrack not working properly. Allegedly enraged, Chauhan took him to his office and along with other officials beat him up. He then allegedly heated a metal ‘Om’ symbol and branded it on his back. Nabbir has also alleged that he was denied food for two days. He also said that on April 14, Chauhan told the victim that he had converted into a Hindu as he had fasted during Navratri (a Hindu festival). The jail officials also reprimanded him for his religion saying that “you Muslims have destroyed our country.”
The entire matter came to light when Nabbir narrated his ordeal to his family who then conveyed it to his counsel Adv Jagmohan. The case was heard by the Karkardooma court on April 17 when a hearing was already scheduled as his judicial custody was ending. In the courtroom, the Magistrate, Richa Parashar, asked him to narrate his story, and then she saw the branded symbol herself.
Nabbir has been lodged in the Tihar jail since November 2017, for allegedly carrying firearms, attempted murder, and under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

The court has said that the allegations are of serious nature and require urgent investigation. It said, “The allegations raised by the accused are of serious nature and required immediate intervention… a notice is being issued to DGP, Prisoner, Headquarter, Jail No. 4, New Delhi to get the medical examination of accused Nabbir conducted with immediate effect and also to make enquiry report regarding the burn imprinted ‘Om’ mark on the person of the accused.” It said necessary CCTV footage should be collected, in addition to statements of other inmates. “It is further directed that necessary arrangements be made to ensure the safety of accused in jail and he be immediately removed from the direct or indirect supervision of jail superintendent Rajesh Chauhan,” the order read.  After the court’s directive, the victim has been shifted to jail number one. Predictably, Chauhan has denied all the allegations.

There have been several studies which have shown how undertrials are subjected to physical and mental torture; especially those belonging to the minority communities. Last year in April, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), had reported that 21 undertrials affiliated with the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) - a banned Islamic organisation - were tortured, assaulted, persecuted based on their religion and were denied medical treatment. Another report, submitted in the Rajya Sabha, revealed that there were 1674 custodial deaths between April 2017 and February 2018. The 273rd Law Commission Report, published in 2017, had recommended that the state agents - policemen, military and paramilitary personnel -  accused of committing custodial torture should be criminally prosecuted instead of just facing administrative action.