Sunday, 26 May 2013 07:14
A nation may be judged by the way it treats five categories of humans - women, the elderly, children, people afflicted by mental illness and its prisoners. And of course by the way it treats animals.
Our record in these five plus one 'rishte' is, at its best, mixed and at its worst, appalling.
The nightmarish experience of Sarabjit Singh in his Lahore prison must make us spare a thought for life in prisons, our prisons. We should remember that the overwhelming majority of those in prisons, now called "Correctional Homes", are undertrials. This means the great number of 'jail-birds' are not perverts, baddies, criminals. They may well be entirely innocent, mainly innocent or just victims of that ever-present, everywhere present 'thing' called plain bad luck. 'Taqdeer' is not recognised either in the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code or in our Evidence Act. You and I, by a chance brush of that 'thing' could very well find ourselves trapped within the hideous bars of a cognisable and even a non-bailable offence. As easily as in a lift stuck in its chute by a power outage. Playing cricket, if an accidental swish of the bat has landed on another's skull, cracking it, can clamp the batsman in the clinker. A jaywalker, a fool kid running across the road or median fence jumper can come under the wheel of the car being driven by any of us. We do not have to be drunk driving. A call on the mobile phone is enough to do that for us. And of course for the politically active, a conscious breaking of the rule book can earn the hospitality, howsoever brief, of the thana. A cell therefore is not for 'em. It can be, like the ICU in a cardiac, stroke or trauma-care centre, very much for us. But not for that reason alone should we be aware of what life behind prison walls is like. We should know. That is all.