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Prisoners ‘isolated within the jail’; Journalist Asif Sultan ‘has tested negative’: Jail Superintendent

Srinagar: As many as 102 inmates including three females lodged at Central Jail Srinagar have tested positive for COVID-19. Six of the jail staffers have also contracted the virus.

The jail authorities have so far sampled at least 485 prisoners.

It all began mid-July when a doctor deputed in the jail turned COVID-19 positive followed by two more doctors getting affected.

The entire medical team deputed at the jail was quarantined while many inmates complained of fever and other related symptoms.

The authorities then decided to go for sampling of all those lodged in the jail.

Out of the first batch of 87 inmates screened for coronavirus, 33 turned out to be positive by first week of August, the number that has now increased to 102.

Bearing signs of age and decay, the jail, located at Kathi Darwaza in Rainawari, Srinagar, is already over-crowded with around 500 inmates lodged in the facility that can officially accommodate only 360 of them.

Senior Superintendent, Srinagar Central Jail, Tej Ram Katoch, told The Kashmir Monitor that 102 inmates including three females have tested positive for coronavirus.

“So far we have taken 485 samples of which 102 have come positive. Apart from them, six jail staffers have also tested positive,” he said.

Asked whether the affected prisoners have been shifted out to a healthcare or a separate quarantine facility, Katoch said the inmates have been “isolated in individual barracks.”

“We will go for their retesting (of those who have completed 12 days period) from tomorrow,” he said.

Asked how come the jail authorities were managing to keep over 100 affected inmates isolated in a facility that was already overcrowded, the Senior Superintendent said “there was no overcrowding as we had shifted some out to other jails.”

As is the case with most jails in Kashmir, the majority of these inmates are either under-trials or those slapped with Public Safety Act.

Among those detained in the jail include Kashmir Journalist, Asif Sultan.

“He (Asif) is okay. He tested negative,” Katoch said.

Asif was arrested back in August 2018 when he was working with Kashmir Narrator, a valley-based magazine.

He was charged with “harbouring militants”, months after he wrote a story in the magazine where he worked as an Assistant Editor. His family and colleagues refuted the allegations.

This is the second instance when a jail in Kashmir has become a COVID-19 hotspot.

In early July, nearly 100 inmates in district jail Anantnag in south Kashmir were COVID-19 positive.

As reported by The Kashmir Monitor then, the authorities took 239 samples from the jail, including that of the inmates and jail staff, of which at least 89 samples tested coronavirus positive.

The Anantnag jail too is congested with over 200 inmates lodged in a place which can only accommodate 60 of them.

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About the Author

A journalist by chance with over five years of experience in reporting, editing, and bucketing local, national and international content for my current organization. I have covered education, health, politics, and human rights. I like working for a daily, though I occasionally try my pen in long-form to connect personal narratives with history.

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