Prisoner Mirza Himayat Baig recounts solitary confinement inside an anda cell

31 October 2019
In September, Baig wrote a nine-page letter to his friend detailing his deteriorating health.
PTI
In September, Baig wrote a nine-page letter to his friend detailing his deteriorating health.
PTI

Main yahan par hazaron bandishon mein hoon”— I am here, held together by a thousand chains—Mirza Himayat Baig, a prisoner in Nashik Central Jail, wrote to his childhood friend Rehan Ahmed, in a nine-page letter, in September. In 2010, Baig was arrested after a bomb blast at the Germany Bakery cafe in Pune. The blast, which took place on 13 February 2010, killed 17 people and injured 64. Six months later, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested Baig, identifying him as the prime suspect in the case. According to Ahmed, Baig ran an internet cafe in Pune prior to his arrest.

In the letter, 39-year-old Baig detailed violations of his rights as a prisoner, the inhumane prison conditions and his deteriorating health. He said that he had been living in the “anda cell” for the last nine years. Several lawyers I spoke to said that the anda cell is a colloquial term for a high-security compound inside a prison that is egg-shaped. The cells inside are often tiny and dimly lit, with sparse ventilation and little space for movement. They are usually assigned to high-profile criminals and are, in effect, a form of solitary confinement. Its purpose is often to segregate criminals accused of serious offences, such as terror suspects, from the rest of the inmates. Baig’s case is a testimony of what prisoners endure in the anda cell and the impact of solitary confinement on their mental condition.

Nidhi Suresh is the programme officer at the Quill Foundation, Delhi. She can be reached at lhrc@quillfoundation.com

Keywords: prison life prisoners
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