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A lot is said of the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and shame is expressed at the human rights violation and blamed on the contractors who all acted “inappropriately” as Prison guards. As if suddenly the national pratcices of treating prisoners took a nose-dive in a foreign land and those in that prison behaved in a manner unbecoming of the nations other prison authorities.
Numerous studies and incidents in prisons across US show that Guantanamo was a replica of what happens in prisons within the US.
Gotham Chopra (Dr. Deepak Chopra’s son and journalist) talks about the imprisonment and confinement of an up and coming (brash and neo-rich, albeit) Indian designer Anand Jon, along with hard-core criminals for over an year now without any trial! (Part I & Part II) South Asian community has done nothing whatsoever to help expedite the trial. It is not a matter of whether Anand actually committed molestation and rape of the girls he is supposed to have been put in jail for. But at the very least, something… just something, has to be proved before any action ought to have been taken against him? And confinement for ONE year without trial for a known personality? What would happen to an unknown person then?
The answer lies in the death of a Sikh priest Khem Singh, who got 27 years for molesting a minor and 2 other kids in the state prison in Corcoran for – and this is beyond belief – for malnutrition!
Khem Singh was a Sikh priest of a Gurudwara in California. Until, that is, an opposing faction forced him out and took over the reigns. He continued to impart knowledge on Sikh traditions and scriptures to kids and others at home. And then all hell broke lose one day.
It was during one such visit that an 8-year-old girl alleged that he had touched her beneath her underwear during reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the religion’s Scriptures.
The victim’s family had been discouraged by fellow Sikhs from filing charges, according to community members. There was concern that the case would bring negative media attention and ridicule to the growing Sikh community in the San Joaquin Valley. The young girl would be marked for life, it was said, a stigma that might hurt her chances to marry.
Another family came forward and alleged that their son and daughter also had been touched inappropriately. Singh was advised to take a plea bargain, but either due to his belief that he hadn’t wronged or because he did not understand the US law he did not take the bargain and testified the case himself. He was convicted in June 2001 to 27 years to life in prison!
He was a vegetarian. The prison authorities insisted on serving meat to him. Even in plate where they would serve him vegetables, they would forcibly put meat. He wouldn’t eat. He would often go without food and if eating at all, it would be some bread and peanut butter. His weight had dropped to 80 pounds and this 72 year old frail man was committing a slow suicide (or being killed by authorities) in front of everyone’s eyes. No one said anything!
No one, that is, except the fellow inmates. They wrote a letter to Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) pleading that she intervene. But helped arrived very late. He was dead by then.
At Corcoran, Singh’s condition took a turn for the worse early this year. Some correctional officers went to the prison’s medical staff to express their own concerns, according to Romero, but logbooks show that no medical technician, nurse or doctor followed up and treated him in his cell.
“Mr. Singh has not left his cell to go to eat – not once,” the inmate wrote to Romero in a Feb. 11 letter. “They do not bring him any food. None. I smuggle bread back.
As if this was not enough, he was ill-treated and physically abused by the guards as well. Mind you, he already had a bad leg apart from a frail and dying body.
The inmates traced his rapid deterioration to an incident in December when a supervising officer grew frustrated with Singh and slammed the cell door on the inmate’s hand.
Singh was clearly injured and in pain but the guard, who had treated Singh poorly in the past, wouldn’t allow him to seek medical treatment, according to inmate letters. Singh became so fearful that he hardly left his cell after that, they said.
This was how a “common man” with no voice or friends like Gotham Chopra died silently, without a voice.. and without food.
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