Prison discipline v. Human Rights
This era is called modern age or information age. How low a democratic country can stoop to maintain its dominance and to ensure obedience of its commands? The answer is, at its lowest! It can force its prisoners to live in its own excreta, like animals. Find it unbelievable? It was long time ago that I had watched a movie titled ‘Some mother’s son’ and a part of its story was shocking. It was a movie about a Bobby Sands who was allegedly convicted for the crime of terrorism (by possessing a gun) as a member of Irish Republican Army. The question about guilt or about the method of IRA is irrelevant. What is relevant that when we adopt our polity as democratic, the citizens are supreme. Irrespective of the fact whether such citizen is a delinquent. Vow in favor of human rights is not a matter of internal debate but it is a commitment to every citizen. Therefore it must extend to every prisoner whatever may be the reason for imprisonment . Among prisoners, the only classification permissible is on the basis of their security or escape attempts or may be health.
Human rights worst than animals?
What are the animal rights in this country? If you do not know, they are not to be treated with cruelty even if the animals are on way to be butchered. The Rules for establishing butcher house (in India) are here.
In 1981, Margret Thacher was the Prime Minister of United Kingdom. She had no reputation of being a cruel monster. Whether she was a good person or not is still being debated. In 1981 Great Britain was facing many challenges including an armed rebellions from Irish Republican Army, which according to the Government, was an organization of terrorists. Bobby Sands like many other convicts was confined to prison. He along-with his fellow inmates violated prison discipline by refusing to wear prison uniform. They were roaming in blankets only, a protest which had continued since 1978. In 1981 the Change of prison authority brought a new stubborn administrator (I could not know the name), he restricted their movement outside their cells without proper uniform. Hence they were forced to shit and pee in their prison cells. They smeared the walls of their prison cells with their excreta. About fourteen years ago, when I had looked up and searched the Internet, above was the story. Now Wikipedia states they were prevented not to move out of prison cell due to some security reason. No official statement about this aspect is available. However I am not ready to assume that few human beings would choose to live in their own excreta. It was a clear case of enforcement of discipline at the cost of human right. As per BBC these were the demands of Bobby Sands:
Bobby Sands, who had served five years of a 14-year sentence for possessing a gun, began his hunger strike on 1 March.He had softened his stance since the first strike and this time was making five main demands: that republican prisoners be allowed to wear their own clothes, that they be given free association time, visits and mail, that they should not to have to carry out penal work and should be given back lost remission.(source http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/may/5/newsid_2728000/2728309.stm)
This also does not talk about the living in human excreta.
Governments responses are always cold!
Bobby Sands and others resorted to hunger strike. Bobby Sands died on 4th May 1981. I wonder, had he survived, this aspect of gross violation of human rights by British Government could have been exposed. This is the official response:
In response to a question in the House of Commons on 5 May 1981, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims”. The official announcement of Sands’ death in the House of Commons omitted the customary expression of sense of loss and sympathy with the family of the member. (Extracted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Sands)
The Prime Minister or the Government felt no remorse. The statement in Parliament reflect the attitude of ‘end justifies means’. This is the dangerous result of every war. Two enemies begin to look the same. There is no denial that human race is facing the worst world war III a.k.a. war against terrorism, which does not even touch human compassion as far as the terrorists are concerned, but should we also become like our enemy? If we do, we had lost the war even before it started.Recently another movie has been made on the subject and its review vividly depicts the horrible situation:
Like Sands, the prisoners at those hellholes were being held without trial and without formal charges. But the most troubling comparisons are in the way prisoners are abused, humiliated and tortured by sadistic guards.McQueen never flinches in his graphic depictions of these shocking abuses of power and authority, but you might. It’s ugly and it shakes you to the bone.Yet, even if you don’t agree with the practices and beliefs of the IRA, you can’t help but admire the courage and tenacity of the inmates in fighting for what they believe in. And what they believed more than anything and what Sands and nine of his comrades died for was their right to be treated like prisoners of war instead of common criminals.Thatcher and the administrators at Belfast’s notorious Maze prison thought otherwise. And the more the prisoners protested, the more they dished out the punishment.Something McQueen duly notes as he bombards you with haunting images of prisoners lying naked in unlit cells caked with feces and reeking from the jars of urine they’ve stored up to dump into the prison’s halls. One can only imagine the stench, the filth, and the misery. (Extracted from MOVIE REVIEW: Film depicts IRA’s Bobby Sands starvation crusade – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger.)
Where is compassion for human life?
We can not shirk our responsibility by saying, we can not find a solution. We have to find one. If nothing else we can start with compassion. We have to tread very cautious line and remember that most basic human rights have been trampled upon to uphold the institutional ego/discipline or for a noble or divine object. The fact that some of the material which was available on the net, a decade ago, is gone, does not smell good either.
© Sandeep Bhalla