Mumbai: Hours after The Wire published a report about the alleged harassment and eventual death by suicide of a 31-year-old life convict, Asghar Ali Mansoori, in the Nashik Central Prison, the local police station today summoned his entire family to record their statements. The police, however, refused to register an FIR despite clinching evidence against the accused officials. Mansoori, who killed himself on October 7, had wrapped his suicide note in a plastic bag and swallowed it before hanging himself to his prison cell’s ceiling. He had named five officials, including a senior jailor, in the note.
Mansoori’s father Mumtaz Mohamed and younger brother Amjad Ali were summoned to the Nashik Road police station on Thursday morning. “Last evening (October 14), we received a call from the Police asking us to travel from Mumbai to Nashik to get an FIR registered. However, on reaching the police station, they refused to register our complaint,” 56-year-old Mumtaz Mohamed said.
A police official investigating the case told The Wire that since the police have already initiated an inquiry under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in the case, they will decide whether or not to file an FIR on completion of the inquiry. “The family has claimed that the deceased person did not know to write or read Marathi. The suicide note was in Marathi. We are trying to ascertain who helped him in writing it and if the names mentioned in the letter are truly behind his death,” said police inspector Ganesh T., who is handling the case. Ganesh also added that the note has five names in it and “not everything mentioned in the letter can be trusted”.
On Thursday, the police recorded the statements of Mansoori’s father and brother and both have mentioned the suicide note in their statement. They have in detail narrated the chronology of events, how they were intimated by the jail about Mansoori’s death and also how a police officer had called them to inform them about the letter that was found in Mansoori’s stomach. “The letter was read out to us by an officer. In the letter, my son has mentioned the names of five officers who had tortured and pushed him to suicide,” Mumtaz Mohamed has stated in his statement. PI Ganesh said that they have also recorded statements of several other jail staff and also those incarcerated at Nashik Central Prison.
Mansoori’s death, which the police had earlier termed as a death by suicide, took a crucial turn after the doctors conducting the post-mortem found the letter lodged in his abdomen. The two-page letter was shown to the deceased family. Along with the suicide note, six other prisoners – all lodged at the Nashik Central Prison – have written a detailed complaint letter blaming specific members of the jail staff for pushing Mansoori to death.
These letters were sent to different prison officials and the chief justice of the Bombay high court. Presently, the prisoners are lodged at the same prison and the officials named in the suicide note and the prisoners’ complaint letter continue to work there. The prisoners have specifically mentioned in the letter that they fear for their lives and anticipate that they may be attacked for speaking up against the jail authorities.
This, however, has not pushed the police or jail officials to either suspend or at least transfer those accused jail officials.
Mansoori’s family has also accused the police of exerting pressure on them to blurt out names of those prisoners who sent out letters. “They kept insisting we give their names. They also want to know how this letter reached the media. We really have no idea how it was brought out of the jail. All we know is my son was liked by his co-prisoners who are willing to risk their lives to ensure he gets justice,” Mumtaz Mohamed said. PI Ganesh, in his defence, said that as a part of their inquiry they are trying to ascertain who exactly helped Mansoori draft the letter and also the entire “chain of events”.
Along with the inquiry by the police, senior jail officials have confirmed that they have initiated an “administrative level inquiry” in the matter to ascertain the roles of the accused officials.
The prisons department has appointed special inspector general of police (prisons), Chhering Dorje to conduct an inquiry to find if there were any “departmental lapses”.