On August 16, a team of doctors from the Thrissur Medical College informed the Viyyoor Central Prison officials that N K Ibrahim, a 67-year-old undertrial, has increased risk of cardiovascular events, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, post tuberculosis sequelae and diabetic-related health complications.
Ibrahim has been languishing in the jail in Kerala’s Thrissur district for six years without bail after his arrest on June 25, 2015 on charges of supporting a Maoist attack on a police officer. He has been charged under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, or UAPA. In January this year, the court allowed him to visit his home for just three hours.
The medical team examined him because of his poor health. He had suffered cardiac arrests twice in the prison. He lost all his teeth because of a gum disease. He is an acute diabetic patient and lost 10 kg of weight in the last few months. However, the courts have rejected all his six bail applications. He now pins his hopes on the bail plea submitted at the Kerala High Court recently. The court is expected to consider it soon.
Ibraim’s health condition has raised serious concerns after the death of 85-year-old Jesuit priest Fr Stan Swamy, who died while being under the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) custody on July 4. Fr Swamy had spent nine months in jail after NIA arrested him in the controversial Bhima-Koregaon case.
He was denied bail even to undergo medical treatment. His friends and social activists have termed his death as an ‘instiutional murder’.
Who is Ibrahim & why is he in jail?
Ibrahim hails from Nedumkarana village in Muppainadu gram panchayat in Wayanad district. He and his wife Jameela were tea plantation labourers. Ibrahim used to involve in labourers’ issues while working with the plantation. The management sacked both husband and wife before their retirement, citing the company’s poor financial health. Despite his termination, Ibrahim continued with his trade union activism. However, he never had any criminal charges against him.
But everything changed on June 25, 2015 when Ibrahim was arrested on charges of conspiring with a proscribed Maoist outfit to attack a civil police officer in Wayanad.
According to the chargesheet, a Maoist group headed by Roopesh trespassed into the house of A B Pramod at Vellamunda - which lies 45km northwest of Ibrahim’s house - with AK-47 and four self-loading rifles. The accused, states the chargesheet, then threatened to kill Pramod for helping the police’s anti-Maoist operations. The group then torched his motorbike, left Maoist pamphlets at the house and pasted a poster on the wall, calling for armed revolution against the Indian government. Anu, Jayanna, Kanya, Sundari,Rajeesh, Shyam are the other accused in the case.
Ibrahim has been arraigned as the eighth accused. The chargesheet states that he supplied arms, food and other materials to the main accused.
Following the directives of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) re-registered the case at the NIA Police Station in Kochi. It filed the First Information Report at the NIA court on January 2, 2016. All the accused have been charged with stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and various sections of Indian Penal Code and Arms Act.
Accentuating Ibrahim’s trouble was the inordinate delay in commencing the trial. The court did not consider the case for five years. The trial eventually began in June, 2021.
The trial could be completed after cross-examining 141 witnesses and checking 141 documents. Three months into the trial, the counsels could cross-examine only 17 witnesses so far. Going by the current pace, legal experts are of the view that a verdict can be expected only after a year.
Kerala’s to-be Fr Stan Swamy?
Human rights activists and social commentators, including poet K Satchidanandan, historian J Devika, writer Sunil P Ilayidom, journalist BRP Bhaskar, have raised concerns about Ibrahim’s failing health and demanded immediate medical attention to him.
They wrote a letter to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the last week of June, requesting him to intervene in the case and ensure Ibrahim’s release. However, it did not elicit any response.
Rights activists now ask why Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who expressed shock over the custodial death of Fr Stan Swamy, remains silent about Ibrahim.
“Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should break his silence and intervene to secure Ibrahim’s release and provide him medical care,” said CP Rasheed, secretary of Janakeeya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam, a human rights organisation in Kerala.
“It is sad to note that goondas such as Kirmani Manoj, Muhammed Shafi and Kodi Suni who are convicted in the murder of TP Chandrashekharan are out on parole while humanist Ibrahim has been languishing in jail for six long years. It is a travesty of justice,” he said.
He urged the government to take the medical board's findings seriously. “The government should provide him emergency medical care. Else, he will meet the same fate of Fr Stan Swamy,” he said.
Ibrahim’s wife Jameela said the medical board’s report is a testimony to his poor health. “He has comorbidities, such as cardiac ailments and breathing trouble. Keeping him in jail during the pandemic is cruel. I plead with the courts to grant him bail and make him safe,” she said.
His son, Naufal, who rides an auto rickshaw for a living, is quite relieved to know that the trial has begun after many long years. “My father has not done anything wrong. The court will let him free after the completion of the trial. But who will give him back the lost years?” he asked.
‘A well-behaved person’
AG Suresh, Superintendent of the Viyyoor Central Jail, said Ibrahim is a calm, well-behaved person. “He appears to be in good health. But he lost his teeth and it has affected his food intake. He has been attending the trial via video conference since June,” he said.
Suresh said he has heard about the clamour for bail to Ibrahim. “It is for the courts to decide. The jail officials have no role to play in it. Undertrials in UAPA cases normally will not get bail. The only aberration was Allan Shuaib (the youth from Kozhikode who was arrested for allegedly possessing and distributing Maoist literature along with Thaha Fazal),” he said.