The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two jailbirds: One lord, other lackey

Mukhtar Ansari: Independent MLA, pro-Mayavati. Serving a 10-year term in Lucknow jail for his conviction under Tada. Last Thursday, he was roaming free in Lucknow after a jail doctor advised a check-up at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Medical University hospital for his backache.

Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya: BJP-backed Independent MLA, led a revolt against Mayavati. Arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on October 24 last year. Languishing in solitary confinement in Kanpur jail, pending trial. Last week, a judicial officer came calling to verify his charge that he was being harassed and found that no doctor was at hand to report on the detainee’s complaint of backache.

Both Ansari and Raja Bhaiyya face an array of criminal cases for offences like murder and kidnapping and they both won the last Assembly elections as Independents by virtue of their clout.

But while a convicted Ansari is lording it over Lucknow jail, undertrial Raja Bhaiyya is having to rough it out in Kanpur. So much so that a special court deputed O.N. Tripathi for an inspection of the jail on a complaint from Raja Bhaiyya that he was being harassed and denied the basic facilities he is entitled to by law.

Tripathi’s report clearly shows that Uttar Pradesh jails are like George Orwell’s animal farm, where all animals are born equal, but some are more equal than others.

Raja Bhaiyya was being kept in solitary confinement in a barrack adjacent to five toilets that lacked sanitation. The food given to him was of poor quality. “The MLA does not get letters addressed to him and is not allowed to go to the jail library. He is given newspapers after the pages containing political news are removed,” a report submitted to special judge (gangsters) S.C. Bose on Friday said.

After talking to Raja Bhaiyya and jail officials, Tripathi said though the prisoner complained that his backache had increased, no doctor was present to inform him of the MLA’s health.

The special court has asked both sides to make submissions at the next hearing on April 21.

Raja Bhaiyya had supported Mayavati, who is heading a BSP-BJP combine, during the vote of confidence in May last year. Last October, he led a revolt of Independents and a section of the BJP legislators against her, earning her wrath.

The erstwhile prince of Kunda was arrested towards the end of that month on the charge of terrorising a BJP legislator to oppose Mayavati. His ancestral property was confiscated and the anti-terror law was slapped on him and his father, sparking accusations of political vendetta.

He was first shunted to a jail in remote Banda and then to Kanpur, where a Prevention of Terrorism Act special court is hearing his case. Half-a-dozen jailers and jail superintendents have been transferred whenever they showed any of being soft on the man Mayavati hates.

In stark contrast, Ansari is treated as royalty in Lucknow jail even though a Delhi Tada court convicted him on February 5 and sentenced him to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment.

His privileged position became clear last Thursday, when he walked out of jail to call on an inspector-general of police at the state police headquarters, went on a shopping spree in the posh Hazratganj market and held court at his flat before returning to his cell at the end of the day.

Ansari, who was elected as an Independent in the last election after being expelled from the BSP for his anti-Mayavati stand, won the chief minister’s favour — and the jail authorities’ indulgence — by switching sides to support Mayavati in her hour of crisis.

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