Srinagar Central Jail,1968

Central jail Srinagar. Photo: Muhabit-ul-Haq

A tale of true face of crime, white collared and oblivion, behind the curtain of time, and a narration of human degradation in the autumn of 1968.

Central jail, Srinagar

By Syed Aqeel

[A]ziz Khan (name changed) an under trail, facing the charges of sedition under the ‘Enemy Agent ordinance’ narrates the eyewitness account of this horrible happening within the four walls of the Central Jail, Srinagar.

In the cool nights of 1968 autumn, I was sleeping in the barrack number 6 of the central jail, where I was put under trail for an act which I had never committed; awakened by loud sounds of siren all of a sudden I was unknown to this type of development which added to my juvenile suspense and astonishment. I wanted to know the reason of such a shrill which now was followed by the sound of big keys opening the iron door of the barrack by the warden on duty. Again, whistle blowing from the nook and corner of the confinement premises roused each individual in and outside the barrack.

Deep in the night my young mind heard the heavy noise of boots running helter and shelter, and restless murmuring sounds of some persons all the night long, as if they were in search of something. My confused young mind and fearful eyes could gather nothing, as I was incriminated on false charges and was unable to understand the evil wisdom of organized crime. Nothing became clear till the gradual lights of morning spread its rays on the skies above the surprising and fearful eyes of all the inmates in the barrack. Everyone was called out to speak before some officers, who had come to record the moving events of that night.

A cue was formed before such officers, where as each inmate was questioned and his answers were recorded. I was standing behind a hard core criminal, who was often time and again imprisoned for acts of stealing and violence. The man had a rough appearance and it looked as if he was used to the life of jail, unlike all the others, giving no signs of regret and impatience during the period of his imprisonment in the four walls of the confinement premises.

He was being questioned regarding some acts that used to take place during the darkest hours of night. To quote him, “the head of the confinement premises used to bring him out of the jail during the middle of the night for burglaries and thefts”. What was surprising and depressing was the confession made by the said criminal that the head of the confinement premises made him to burglar the house of his own brother, (i.e. head of the confinement premises’ brother), deep in the city.

It was also reported to the investigating officers by the said criminal that after bringing the booties, the head of the premises used to divide the booty in between himself and the burglar, and that this infamy was carried on every two weeks. I was perplexed and baffled that why the burglar used to return to the confinement premises. The confusion was thus removed by the burglar himself, when he said to the investigating officers that his two sisters were being held as hostages by the head of the confinement premises till he returned with the booty.

This face of crime and human annihilation was a shock to my juvenile mind. A dilemma over-shadowed me since then that made me doubt the possibility of the existence of good. I was horrified upon seeing the real face of life at a very tender age , which appeared sweet and promising outside the walls of the confinement premises but absent from the grim and harsh realities that can destroy mans faith in the existence of good. My fear of being confined within the four walls was replaced by indelible thoughts of confusion and doubt over the relationships of blood.

[pullquote]The confusion was thus removed by the burglar himself, when he said to the investigating officers that his two sisters were being held as hostages by the head of the confinement premises till he returned with the booty.[/pullquote]The result of this odious experience on me was that, there was a little desire left in me to meet my own kith and kin after I was freed. I would often doubt the affection and care of my family even and was filled with uncertainty on the future of relationships, which made me fall deeper and deeper into the whirlpool of loneliness. The burglar may be dead by now, so is the head of the confinement premises but till now I am not able to conclude the true face of human tragedy. Till now, that incident reminds my heart and soul, the uniqueness of this human nature, which is darkened by greed and vengeance.

Add to this, the burglar while inside the confinement premise was provided with every kind of entertainment and facility, and after the episode of investigation, the burglar was released by the then administration. He testified his malevolent acts of stealing before the commission, which was appointed by the then administration to find out the truth behind the great escape made by the late Maqbool Butt. So far no such report has been made public so that the world could know what was happening inside the Srinagar central jail.

How can one explain the happenings when the burglar was offered the membership card by a political party that had taken the reigns of administration at that time. This is how crime spreads its tentacles to eat the fresh flesh of society.

Photograph:  Muhabit-ul-Haq

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