October 08, 2010 Armed with a written petition and incensed at the long-term pendancy of their cases in various courts, more than 40 inmates of the central Jail’s cell number six located in Hari Nagar that houses its entire female population have been on strike since Wednesday afternoon. “It was a mixed population consisting of both Indian and foreign prisoners led by female inmates of African descent. Most of them are serving time under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act,” said a senior Tihar Jail official. Sources said that the inmates, who were allowed to exit cell number six for a routine manual labour drill at 1 p.m., requested to communicate with the prison authorities after they came out instead of proceeding to the work area like usual. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had visited the facility on September 23.
“When refused their request, they went to the lawns opposite the cell block and squatted on it. The inmates stayed there for hours, refusing to eat or drink. Some of them under medical treatment even refused to take their medication,” sources said. According to prison authorities, the demonstration that had been organized by just 4 per cent of the prison’s entire inmate population of an estimated 12,000 people lasted for about 24 hours and was a peaceful one. “Refusing food and water, the inmates sat quietly on the lawn — unmoved by jeers from their male counterparts and requests of returning to ‘normalcy’ from prison staff. Anyone trying to reason with them was given the same answer — ‘we just want to chat with the boss for five minutes’,” the source said.Their wish was finally granted on Thursday afternoon. “We received a written petition from the inmates. They are despondent because their cases are yet to be resolved and keep getting transferred from one court to the other,” said Sunil Gupta, Legal Officer, Tihar Jail. He said a senior advocate from the Supreme Court had been engaged to look into their individual complaints.