THE statement of the home minister that committees set up to investigate the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed, which took place in prison in Kashimpur on February 25, say that Mushtaq ‘died naturally’ brings to fore some issues left unexplained — whether he faced torture or went through any situation that could cause the illness, which resulted into his death. After the death of Mushtaq, who had been detained in a case under the Digital Security Act 2018 since early May, the home ministry set up a committee while the Gazipur district administration and the prisons authorities also separately set up investigation committees to establish the cause of death, which sparked off protests. The home ministry committee says that Mushtaq fell ill when he went to washroom and then medical facilities were provided for him in jail and was then taken to a hospital outside the jail where he died. The committees do not appear to have looked into whether he faced any torture or went through any situation that could cause the illness.
What makes it a case here is the allegation of torture that Mushtaq’s family members and another, detained in the same case and remanded on bail on Wednesday, have levelled. Mushtaq is reported by newspapers to have been detained in the morning on May 4, 2020 and was produced in court on May 6, showing a gap between the two events when he might have been fiendishly treated during his interrogation. Mushtaq had suffered from some health complications and had not, as his family alleges, been afforded the required treatment in jail, where adequate health care has always been a far cry. What is also concerning is that he had been denied bail six times in about 10 months when he had been detained. If he had been remanded on bail and been properly treated in hospital outside the jail, he might have had a chance to survive. His family also alleges that he was pushed through a situation where his physical condition deteriorated to the point of death. Relevant authorities should, therefore, rather investigate if Mushtaq faced torture and went through any untoward situation.
The government must, therefore, set out an independent investigation to look into whether there was any negligence on part of the jail authorities in treating Mushtaq and whether he faced any torture that greatly impacted his health, leading to his death. The government must also look into whether there were any violations of the law and court directives in the detention of Musthaq and his production in court. The government must look into the allegation of torture of him, which might have prompted his illness, and take legal action accordingly.
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