Press Trust of india

Resumption of ‘Mulaqat’ in J&K jails provides joy to inmates and their families

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Jammu: The joy of nine-year-old Mohammad Hussain knew no bounds as he accompanied his mother to meet his father lodged at a jail here, as authorities on Wednesday resumed ‘Mulaqat’ after a gap of over 10 months due to coronavirus-driven restrictions.

‘Mulaqat’ facility allows prisoners to meet their family members.

Hussain joined several other families from Jammu and Kashmir who queued up to meet their relatives on the first day of the resumption of the facility at district jail Amphalla in the heart of the city, which Jail Superintendent Mirza Saleem Ahmad Beig termed as a ‘Republic Day’ gift to the inmates and their kin.

Hussain, who travelled from Mumbai to meet his father Aijaz said, “I am seeing my father after a long time.”

Aijaz, an undertrial, was arrested in May 2019 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

“We last met before the outbreak of the pandemic and I am happy to visit my father again though we talked on several occasions on phone during the lockdown period,” Hussain, the youngest among Aijaz’s four children and a class 4 student, told PTI.

Emotional scenes filled the newly-constructed interview room, having 17 cabins and a child play corner, with state-of-the-art facility like sound proof walls to eliminate noise and provide a better environment to the inmates during their meetings.

Jail Superintendent Mirza Saleem Ahmed Beig said though the Prisons department under the leadership of Director General of Police (Prisons) V K Singh introduced various facilities like inmate calling system and video conferencing, the “physical ‘Mulaqat’ is altogether a different feeling”.

“We can feel the frustration among the inmates for not being able to meet their relatives since March 24 last year when the Mulaqat was stopped due to COVID-19… the decision to resume the meeting between the inmates and a maximum of three relatives once a month is in the right direction and at an appropriate time. It is a Republic Day gift to the prisoners and their families,” he said.

Amit Kumar’s mother, a resident of Chatta area of Jammu, broke down repeatedly on seeing her son for the first time in the past eight months after his arrest in a molestation case.

Accompanied by her husband and another son, the woman who wished not to be named said she had spent sleepless nights ever since his son’s arrest.

“Now that I have seen him, I can die in peace,” she said.

Bashir Ahmad Wani, a resident of Qazigund area of south Kashmir, had come to meet his son Sajjad, who was arrested in December 2019 in an NDPS case.

“We felt happy after we came to know that the government has resumed the Mulaqat facility and contacted the jail authorities immediately. Sajjad’s two-and-a-half-year-old-daughter was dying to meet her father,” he said, as his granddaughter talked to her father and expressed her desire to hug him.

The jail staff also provided toffees to the children who came to meet their family.

“The decision to restrict the Mulaqat once a month is meant for the safety of the prisoners and the jail staff as the threat of the pandemic still looms large,” the jail superintendent said, adding that every visitor has to produce COVID-negative test reports done not more than 48 hours ago, in accordance with the government guidelines.

Amphalla jail recorded the highest number of 174 coronavirus cases among a total of 539 cases, across 14 jails in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

There are about 650 prisoners lodged in the Amphalla jail and all necessary measures are being taken to ensure their safety against the deadly virus, Beig added.

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