Sharma, a prison inmate struggles to gain access to books
is a sequel to the case of Shri Sudhir Sharma, inmate of Central Jail,
Goa that the General Secretary had taken up with the NHRC. It was published
in last month's Bulletin.)
February 5, 2002
Respected Chhibbar Ji,
Today when I was called to the gate of the jail to sign for a registered
letter, I went to the gate thinking that some author might have sent some
books by registered post. I was surprised to see a letter in the hands
of the post person and not a parcel. Seeing the sender's address I became
inquisitive because I was never in contact with the PUCL.
I sought the permission of the officer on duty
to open the letter
to see what was in it, as generally the unopened letter is taken away
from the prisoner and is taken to the main office from where he gets it
and the next day after it has been censored
on opening the letter
my face registered surprise, happiness, disbelieve. The officer concluded
that something unbelievable happened. I was asked, "Why Sharma, which
author has sent the letter?" I stopped reading and thrust the letter
in his face and said, "Sir this letter has come from Shri Chhibbar
of the PUCL. Kindly censor it here and now return it to me." The
officer was afraid of his superior
he started reading the letter
and he was also very much surprised, "Sharma these people are really
something. They have taken up the cause of a prisoner" other employees
were also listening. They abused the officers for their actions. I related
the content of the letter to my fellow prisoners.
They were also electrified
and started discussing the letter.
I got back the letter after about two hours. Fellow-prisoners, whose English
is better, snatched the letter from my hands and started reading it. They
explained the contents of the letter, sentence by sentence, to everyone.
Everyone said, "Sharma now we will stand up to the jailor."
After half an hour when we were let off to move around in the evening
my fellow prisoners gathered the educated prisoners from other barrack
and read out the letter to them. Some of them wanted zerox copy of your
letter to show it to jailor.
Chhibbar Sahib, your letter has filled everyone's heart with happiness
and strength. I cannot express it in words. As I am writing this letter
others are discussing your letter in groups. It is a very important event.
This letter has electrified everyone. I had become despondent (so were
seven or eight other colleagues who read and correspondent with authors).
My knowledge in English is not very good, but there are others who have
explained it to me. We are still in a state of disbelief that an unknown
and ordinary prisoner has received your active help. I will be indebted
through my life.
I never knew that you had written to the NHRC in March 1998 about the
injustice being done to me and that the NHRC has issued instructions that
all the prisoners in jails throughout the country have the right to read
and write and can send for books and literature from anywhere and that
every jail should have a library
but in our jail we are still deprived
of these facilities. Now we will be able to confront the officers with
We have read from time to time about the PUCL but I did not know that
Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan and
Justice Tarkunde were connected
with it. Once or twice we saw your name also but this is the first time
that we have come to know about the PUCL. I used to think about the activities
of the PUCL. This incident is a sufficient introduction and it has given
me an understanding of the word 'human'.
Chhibbar Sahib, you cannot understand the meanness of the jail officials
the conditions in our jail compel me to take your valuable time. The District
Collector is the I.G. of the prison. He/she gets time to visit the jail
once or twice in a year because this is an additional responsibility.
The IG has no knowledge of the prison rules or about the prisoners. Consequently
they are dependent on the superintendent and the jailor. They dispose
off all the matter in their office. The result is that officers on the
spot are free to follow their whims. Till five years ago there was no
permanent superintendent in this jail.
When a regular superintendent was appointed, he was a person from the
civil service. People from the civil service, being uninformed about prison
administration, are totally dependent on the superintendent and the jailor.
The present jail superintendent was an assistant jail superintendent for
a long time here. He has come up via promotions. He used to be very much
irritated with my interest in literature. He was responsible for stopping
my registered mail and books etc. I had written to the NHRC, the Chief
Minister, Court etc. I wrote to an IPS officer Shri Vibhuti Narayan Rai.
He talked to a journalist Shri Sumanth Bhattacharya and it was then that
my news was published in Jansatta and Indian Express. After that I started
getting my registered letters but my ordinary letters were never given
became very angry when the Indian Express published my news. For three
years I got my mail through other prisoners. Officers from the NHRC also
visited the jail.
Recently on December 29, 2001 I had written a long letter to Kusum Ansal,
a known writer. It was torn and thrown away by the superintendent. I had
received a letter from Ms. Tanuja Chandra, a film scriptwriter & director.
The superintendent referred to me jail rule numbers 17 and 18 and said
that I cannot correspond with authors. On further quarries he became more
angry and asked the what was my relationship with Tanuja Chandra? You
are freeloaders in the jail and are writing to these people. You can write
only four letters in a month only to your home, relatives, friends, and
lawyers. Scriptwriters and Directors cannot be your friend. When I told
him that clause 19 of the Constitution and Supreme Court give me the right
to read and write he became very angry and tore the letter that I had
written to Kusum Ansal. He threatened me with physical torture. I was
deeply hurt by his behaviour.
I concluded that hiding
behind jail rule he will not let me correspond. Nothing had happened to
him in the passed six years, only an item was published in a newspaper
but he received no reprimand, he was not questioned at all. I got an application
drafted with the help of an English knowing friend about my institutional
rights and sent it on January 30. I depended heavily on a book by Dr.
Mutthaiya, librarian, Tata Institute of Social Sciences 'prisoners' rights.
Now I have received your letter. Now the superintendent will stop my mail
and I will be mentally tortured
Chhibbar Sahib, if you send someone to inspect this prison facts can be
All my fellow-prisoners
send their greetings to you and other members of the PUCL. -- Sudhir Sharma,
Prisoner No. 307, Central Jail Agauda, Candolim, Bardez, Goa-403519