Haj Bhavan turns de facto jail

It has resulted in restrictions and fears on health grounds among residents

With a total of 137 undertrials from Ramanagaram jail, including 116 persons accused in the recent Padarayanapura violence, been shifted to Haj Bhavan quarantine centre, the bhavan has now turned into a de facto jail.

Prison authorities, who have deputed their officials to be in charge of the four-storey building with a single entry from the east side, are allowing supply of food and other material into the bhavan for inmates only after scrutiny.

Sharing space with them in the building are a group of 37 Tablighi Jamaat attendees (comprising 24 foreigners, 12 from Kerala, and one from Tamil Nadu) who have finished their 28-day quarantine period. They were shifted from the bhavan to hotels, but were eventually shifted back here following protests by locals in those areas. The Kerala and Tamil Nadu residents were refused entry into their home States.

The food allowed into the bhavan is also now entirely vegetarian, as per directions of the jail authorities. This is applicable to those who are not undertrials as well.

But, the non-undertrial inmates are now more worried on other counts. “We have been put up with undertrials here and are worried that we may contract the infection as they are still in the incubation period of 14 days. While we have no other problems, we are worried that mixing of healthy and those in the incubation period may not be safe,” said Mohammed Ali from Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Ali, who attended the jamaat event, runs a perfume business. “It has been a month now and I am waiting to get back home. I appeal to the authorities to send us back as soon as possible,” he said.

Another man from Kerala, who did not wish to be named, said they had landed in Bengaluru after attending the congregation in Delhi as the only available ticket was to Bengaluru on March 24 when the lockdown was announced. “We had planned to go by road from Bengaluru to our hometown. But got stuck and are now forced to stay with the undertrials. I am missing my family, especially my one-year-old daughter,” he said.

It is not just the fear of getting infected that is worrying them. “We are worried as our movement is restricted. We cannot even come out for a walk. We are stressed psychologically,” said the man from Kerala. This group has been accommodated on the fourth floor where a woman from Padarayanapura, who is also accused of violence, has been put up.

Chief superintendent of central prison Sheshumurthy V. denied that the Haj Bhavan had been converted into a jail. “This is a quarantine centre and we have isolated the undertrials here,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

Bengaluru Urban District Health Officer (DHO) G. Srinivas said there was no risk of infection as all the residents of the bhavan had tested negative in the first round.

However, sources said the first test was done soon after they were separated from the containment area. “Their swab tests will be repeated after 12 days and till then they are in the incubation period and it is risky to keep them along with healthy persons,” sources said.

Haj Bhavan nodal officer Syed Aijaz Ahmed said: “As the Haj Bhavan has been converted into a de facto jail, the bhavan authorities’ role is now limited. We are only providing food to those staying here. We have also made arrangements for Sehri and Iftaar through our volunteers.”

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 7:39:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/haj-bhavan-turns-de-facto-jail/article31457241.ece

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