Life in an Indian Prison - Arun Ferreira
Cinematographer: Faiza Ahmad Khan
Duration: 00:12:51; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 25.175; Saturation: 0.051; Lightness: 0.326; Volume: 0.270; Cuts per Minute: 2.410; Words per Minute: 146.544
Summary: Arun Ferreira was arrested in May 2007 on fabricated charges under the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (UAPA).
As soon as he was acquitted in a case, a new one would be conjured up. In September 2011, as he was being released from Nagpur Jail,
he was abducted by the police and new charges were fabricated again.
Finally out on bail in January 2012, Arun talks about life in prison and torture they were subjected to, through his sketches.
Arun Ferreira was arrested in May 2007 on fabricated charges under the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (UAPA).
As soon as he was acquited in a case, a new one would be conjured up.
In September 2011, as he was being released from Nagpur Jail, he was abducted by the police and new charges were fabricated again.
Finally out on bail in January 2012, Arun talks about life in prison and torture
A: This is the dress, the prison uniform every prisoner - under-trials in Maharashtra jails are supposed to get these (?) which have blue linings on them. Therefore in many other drawings I've used that as...
A: This also is part of a drawing I just was in the mood of drawing...
A: This is what is called a Nursing orderly. He is the doctor at night. He has this fixed combination of tablets. There's Paracetamol, Avil and a few antibiotics.
A: So he... I remember once in the cell adjoining to me, there was a person who had come in a NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) case. So he had withdrawal symptoms. So he used to scream in the night.
A: So, once this guy had come along and he gave him 2 or 3 tablets, that guy said 'no no no, give me more!'. So he landed up giving him 10 tablets of various different (?), just to keep him happy.
A: This is how the doctor - medical system works at night. If you're sick in the night and you call a doctor, the doctor will only come probably at 3 o'clock in the morning, or 6 o'clock in the morning.
A: And actually the odd thing about jail is that there are many cases where people have died in the jail. What they do, is they take the person from the jail in a van, and in the van they give him saline. So when they reach the hospital, it is shown that he has died after leaving the jail and before reaching the hospital.
A: So it does not come into record as a death in jail. The records are shown as if he has left the jail fit and fine and when he has reached the hospital he has just died. And its the same doctors that work in the hospital and the officers also, they are keen to suppress such news.
A: In fact I think they have gone through records and Maharashtra jail has the highest number of custody deaths in jail.
A: This is a scene of the Nagpur Central Prison if you have seen it, that's the main gate. This is the place where people have to come and give mulaakaat
, that is meet the prisoners.
A: So this entire - actually its a very odd system - that day I was speaking to my lawyer, he had to come to visit someone in jail, and he came to jail around 10 o'clock in the morning, he got his visitation only at 5 o'clock in the evening. So throughout this day he has to wait in the sun. In April and May the Vidarbha heat is tremendous. This is the type of situation that they have.
F: So ho long did you spend here? In Nagpur Jail how long did you spend?
A: Totally about 4 years and 8 months.
F: So from the start you were here?
A: Ya, from the time I was arrested, about one and a half month in police custody, and the rest of the time in the jail.
F: And so how many cases - how many times were you acquitted and then re-arrested?
A: That's the thing they don't do. They wait for your release after all the cases, and that's the time they come and re-arrest you.That's the problem. Like we keep saying, if you put all those cases in the initial period on us, we have no problem; because being in jail for one case and being in jail for 20 cases wouldn't make much of a difference.
F: But when you were re-arrested the last time from outside the jail, was it somewhere here?
A: It was in this part. Here just at the side is a wicket gate, a smaller gate, so they had brought cars here and they had taken me from there, from that side. And that was the time when this entire place was closed. It was a very pre-planned type of thing, this entire area which is usually crowded was cleansed by the guards. Nearly 30 - 40 local police had come there to give protection to this illegal act.
A: This is a scene from inside the mulaakaat
. We would sit here... my parents had come once or twice, they used to regularly come, but eventually they used to never see my face because there was a mesh and the lighting was bad. You just see a silhouette of the person and you just hear his voice.
A: ... I remember seeing once, I went and sat down there and the other side there was this small child - he kept thinking I'm his father, but actually it was someone else. So he kept talking to me like I was his father because he could not see.
A: Its a very odd thing, because for children to meet their parents in jail; physical touch is more important.
A: This is the system of what we call the Round. Once a week the entire prison officials used to come and... everybody had to stand in a row. There was this wierd feudal culture where we had to remove our slippers and stand. And when someone would come, everybody had to salute. Still, meeting an officer is very odd - you have to remove your slippers and go.
A: Actually that entire system itself removes any type of democracy - a prisoner would get so scared to just speak to someone.
A: This is the centre of the mini-barrack its called the 'gol'. If there's any case of indiscipline, the guy would be called there, and they would be given a bashing.
A: So it would be called either girana hai
- means they would literally hit that person till he falls down.
A: Then secondly they would be called - in the morning it used to be called bhajan. So sometimes you would hear 'Subah se bhajan chalu hai.'
- That means someone is getting bashed up for something he did in the night.
A: This... actually the picture speaks for itself. Nothing to speak about it.
A: This is... actually the chaos... when an alarm rings in jail, you have to leave everything and just run to your barrack, because if by chance you are caught in the wrong barrack, by chance you are caught somewhere else, you will just be bashed up. And this is the very same time that officers target people. People who have spoken against them, they will be targetted...
F: But why would this happen?
A: This is a rule in jail, that during Alarm - alarm is supposed to be alerted when there is a case of indiscipline, or there is someone who is trying to escape. At that time they are allowed to use minimum force. So in a definition of minimum force, all these things can happen. So if the alarm is alerted, you can bash someone up and say that there was a context in it.
F: So how often would this happen?
A: Depends, sometimes it has happened twice or thrice in 6 months. Sometimes for one year nothing has happened. I remember a case in Arthur Road Jail, where the superintendant actually planned the alarm. They got people locked up, and then they planned the alarm for the cases of the Malegaon 2006 cases, the 7-11 under-trial cases and they got them bashed up.
A: The case went to the High court and the judge then found out that he was at fault. So... everybody knows that's the true reason for the alarm.
A: The (?) which also cleans the toilets and the gutters and all that, they are usually from Adivasis or from Dalits. So while cleaning the gutters they occassionally find bandicoots. They would gut the bandicoots, cook them, and that would be the 'mutton' for a group of 5 or 6 of them.
A: And if they sense a bandicoot, the way 5 or 6 of them would hunt it, it was actually an interesting scene. And because they are more comfortable with these places, they roast it behind the toilet or something like that.
A: They are generally convicts, with murder cases or something like that. But the thing is many of them would want to go to do this job. Because it has the most remissions - ie the number of days of your sentence that gets cut off. I don't remember the number now - I think in one month it is 12 or 13 days or something like that for this type of job. The payment is also the highest.
A: This is a typical handi
. Actually handi
is illegal in Indian jails, but its something people have learnt t o live with. You get food - in jails you get food at 4 o'clock in the evening. And on Sundays you get your dinner at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
A: So I remember in the beginning, when we used to be served besan on sunday, in the winter the besan used to taste like ice cream at 8 o'clock in the night. So there is no other choice, people would form teams - 4 of them would take some hair oil and make some chutney or achaar with it, and then put it in the sabji and make it hot.
A: For fuel they would dry rotis. They would get 3 rotis, so they would keep the rotis in the sun, after they are dried they burn really well... I can tell my experience - it burns like a gas, and within about half an hour to one hour you get a good hot meal. And sometimes you can combine your meal with some chuda
and something like that then it tastes quite good.
A: These are the ways people innovate to make life quite comfortable. Nahin toh
its very tough. Like I'm saying - to eat besan from afternoon, to 8 o'clock in the night - its really horrible.
A: This picture is more philosophical in a sense. That is called a Lal
Gate. This is the gate where people - in all dialogues they keep saying 'Arre ek din Lal Gate ke baahar jaayenge
'. Lal Gate
would mean the gate where we would get freedom. It is always seen as a portal where you would get liberated. So I thought of it... in terms of a picture there is nothing to it, but in terms of the philosophy behind it, there is much to it.
A: There would be this god (guard(?)) sitting there opening this gate. Beyond that there is a bigger gate, obviously with proper guards. But this would be known as the Lal gate
A: This is a scene I thought of using in the book - its the stripe that is in the dress. The white dress, and they have a blue line. I used it as a backdrop in my book.
Colours of the
Glimpses of life in an Indian prison
by Arun Farreira.