A convict serving life sentence in sensational Pradeep ‘Don’ murder case of Ahmedabad wrote a letter to the Prisons Department of Gujarat Police seeking permission to convert to Islam.
The convict, Jignesh Soni, wrote this letter after he was shifted to a barrack that had Muslim inmates in the Sabarmati Central Jail. He claimed that the prisons department is torturing Hindu inmates by lodging them together with Muslims.
Jignesh who is lodged in Bada Chakkar (section of the prison for convicts) of Sabarmati Central Jail since the last six years, is the key accused in the murder case and he was arrested in 2009.
Jignesh had written to Superintendent of Prisons, R S Bhagora on May 27, 2015 stating that he wants to convert to Islam and he will make ten other Hindu prisoners file similar applications to the prisons department.
Jignesh’s application requesting conversion will be submitted in Gujarat High Court.
In his application, Jignesh stated that he was shifted to another barrack on May 22, where Muslims prisoners were more in number. He claimed this was done to torture him by keeping him with ‘minorities’.
Jignesh also alleged that the present barrack where he was recently shifted is punishment room where Hindus are kept with Muslim prisoners for ‘torture’.
The Chief of the Prisons department, IGP TS Bisht told The Indian Express, “We have issued an inquiry in this matter to see if there was torture as alleged inside barrack or the convict just wanted to protest”.
Bisht stated that when authorities see misconduct or ill behaviour of any convict or an undertrial, we shift them to different barracks or high-security prison, where they cannot interact with others. However there is no such practise carried out in Gujarat jails where Hindu prisoners are ‘forced’ to stay with Muslims’ as punishment.
The prisons authorities at Sabarmati Central Jail stated that Jignesh’s application for conversion is a ‘tantrum’ to pressurise the authorities.
While the chief of prisons said that Jignesh was shifted to another barrack as disciplinary action, the Superintendent of jails claimed, “it was a routine barrack-shift”.
Superintendent of Jails RS Bhagora said, “Jignesh is a headstrong and dreaded criminal. Though he describes his shift to this barrack as a punishment, there is no punishment meted out to anyone in any barrack. He was shifted to this present Barrack No.2, because there was vacancy of one to be lodged there”.
As per the jail manual, each barrack can accommodate 40 inmates and after accommodating Jignesh the barrack in Bada Chakkar still has only 38 inmates, which is contrary to the vacancy claimed by prison authorities.
According to Bhagora, Jignesh was on parole and he returned back to Sabarmati Central Jail on May 22. When he returned, the jailors shifted him to this barrack where he is presently lodged.
However when asked about the reasons for this shift, Bhagora gave a different view, “He had formed a group comprising of four to five convicts inside the prison and he wanted to stay only with them, which could cause trouble. Therefore he and the others were shifted to different barracks”.
The prison logbooks on May 28 showed that there are 24 Hindus, while there are only 14 Muslims in the same barrack of Sabarmati Central Jail.
The sources in prisons however said that after Jignesh was shifted to this barrack, he alllegedly faced abuse and comments questioning his belief in Hinduism. When he complained to the prison authorities, he was allegedly told that “you must suffer there”. Jignesh reportedly spoke to other Hindu prisoners in barrack who allegedly joined him supporting that “they were lodged with Muslims in this barrack for torture”. The sources added that on contary to prisons claims, Hindu prisoners have in past also complained of ‘torture’ from Muslim prisoners.
Bhagora claimed, “If Muslim prisoners or prison authorities either tactfully or forcefully ask him to convert he can complain, but there is no such activity going on. He claimed that if is made to stay in the same barrack with Muslims he should be allowed to convert to Islam. His grounds for conversion based only on his sharing barrack with Muslims which is illogical”.
Jignesh who has a historysheet of extortion and assaults, had shot at point blank range on Pradeep Kavisvar alias Pradeep Don, an alleged gangster of Khadia in Ahmedabad.
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