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'Fear for Those in Guwahati Central Jail': Student Leader Manas Konwar After Release

The working president of the student wing of KMSS told The Wire that he had grave reservations on the independence of the National Investigation Agency.

Guwahati: Minutes after his release from the Guwahati Central Jail on Tuesday, Manas Konwar, the working president of the student wing of the farmers’ Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti told The Wire that he had grave reservations on the independence of the National Investigation Agency.

Despite having been granted bail by an NIA court on July 13, Konwar had been denied immediate release yesterday.

Konwar, who heads the Sattra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS), spent seven months in jail over his alleged involvement in anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests and was eventually charged with sedition under the UAPA.

He was arrested in December but let go and rearrested in late January.

He said on Tuesday, that he feels concerned for incarcerated leaders outside Assam who are facing the same charges as the KMSS leaders.

“I want to be among the people and help direct the movement for another beginning. It is very worrying that the BJP-RSS nexus is attempting to invade into our democratic rights. I have come to know that RSS agents have penetrated the NIA. This is a ploy on their part to spread their communal agenda which is moulded in a fascist cast. We need to save democracy. I am worried not only about my fellow leaders but those like Devangana Kalita and others who are facing the brunt of the government for protesting against the CAA,” said Konwar.

On Monday, Konwar had sat on a hunger strike protesting against his imprisonment in spite of having received bail. The conditions in jail are deplorable, he said.

Also read: Assam: Despite Bail Order, SMSS Leader Manas Konwar Denied Release

“The food that is given in jail is of sub-standard quality. It is not suitable even for animals. There is no nutrition in the food that is served. No protein and no vitamins. Inmates may be malnourished and I have noticed that many have faced dizziness. The water is horrible and yellow. Many inmates are suffering from jaundice. In a cell where 20 inmates can be accommodated, around 55 are there. Several inmates have to share a mosquito net,” he said.

The health crisis has made things worse. “Most inmates have a fever, or headache, cough, body ache and other signs. Some have breathlessness,” added Konwar.

On the same day, KMSS leaders’ advocates submitted a letter to the district’s chief judicial magistrate to bring attention to the surge in cases at the central jail. The jail is, notably, a containment zone.

Also read: Akhil Gogoi Tests Positive for COVID-19 in Jail; ‘What Tests Did They Do?’ Asks Family

“What we witnessed there reflects an alarming situation. While we were not allowed at around 8 pm in the evening of July 13, we saw many police officers entering the jail premises without having their thermal screening done. After some time, a bus with about 60 to 70 inmates came out from the jail and were being probably transferred to a medical facility. The inmates, while passing by said, almost 95% of the total number of inmates are infected with COVID-19. An inmate threw a letter at us describing the situation inside and asked for their lives to be saved,” a portion of the letter stated.

On Tuesday, a hearing on bail for Bitu Sonowal, the incarcerated central president of SMSS who tested positive for COVID-19 and is undergoing treatment at a facility in the city was supposed to be placed at the NIA special court. That has been deferred for Wednesday.