Monday, November 10, 2008
Badhuru Ge Chronicles - Vol. 1
An Untold Jail Story
The year was 2003. It was known as the Welfare Jail. More commonly referred to as the Welfare Golhi. There are two main cell blocks with a corridor that's 4 feet wide and ends to the few cubicles of toilets at the back. This is the first floor. The ground floor beneath holds all the solitary confinement cells or the kuda golhi.
This was the time when the jails of Maldives were a carnival. It was during the aftermath of Evan Naeem's murder in the Maafushi Prison. The majority of prisoners at the jails have been released and the society was facing the repercussions of this action by Maumoon. The whole community started to experience a wave of violent attacks with box-cutters. The addicts have morphed into thieves, the violent morphed into addicts, it was an orgy of all forms of criminals graduating their behavior through interacting with each other. In other words, the prisons were a college of higher education for all criminals, where they went from bad to worse, where they picked up new criminal talents. The eventuality of this mixed with police violence and in humane torture, led to Evan Naseem's murder and the Maafushi uprising. This also led to the countless other deaths and the "resignation" of police commissioner Adam Zahir.
By then, due to the release of prisoners by the government to ease out the society's anger, the violence and mugging in Male' had reached a level that it had never seen before, it was phenomenal. There were approximately 3 cases per day of box-cutter attack victims of various degree, brought into IGMH during Ramadan of 2002 itself alone. By then the people have already started to forget about Evan Naseem and the Maafushi riots. People started to go near the police station and shout for action to be taken, they shouted at the police to arrest all the junkies, the thieves, the gangsters, and they even waited near the jetty to verbally abuse the prisoners when they were escorted to the boats from the police station to take to Dhoonidhoo jail or the Maafushi jail. But as usual they never asked why this turn of events happened, who was responsible for the release of all prisoners to justify the murders committed at the Maafushi riots?
In the end, the "in-genius" idea Maumoon had was to bring Adam Zahir back as police commissioner. The question remains to be asked, was this escalation of crime a propaganda to get the people flocking back into the government's bosom? A question for another time.
Now back to our story at the Welfare jail.
As mentioned, the jails were a carnival then. The Welfare, and even the Maafushi jail were experiencing a 'freedom' if any could exist in a lock up. It was open for the prisoners to smoke local cigarettes rolled with news paper, called bidi or even cigarettes if they manage to smuggle it. There was heroin on people who managed to smuggle it in their "cupboards", a.k.a the ass. People could walk around the welfare jail corridor, transfer back and forth from the two main cells at the fist floor. Best of all they could curse and abuse the guards, and they couldn't do anything about it. They smoked and did what they wanted, the guards were forced to tolerate it. This was still the liberty bestowed due to the Maafushi murders and the riots. And Adam Zahir was still keeping things loose after his return to power.
The First Cell, 1st floor, Welfare Jail
From the two large cells at the first floor of the Welfare Jail, the first one is completely empty and is used as a temporary holding cell until the prisoners are "registered". This "registration" procedure includes taking urine samples if the person is held in suspicion for drugs, to giving a statement that is satisfactory for the police. The back of the cells is flooded with urine as no one's allowed to go to the toilet until the urine samples are given, and no one wants to give their urine samples so they just piss at the back of the cell with the hope of cleansing it. They also bring addicts picked from the street, completely high on a heroin infamous in Maldives, known as the Vaanuva Stuff and let them sleep if off in the first cell. Thus the first cell can be said to be used as a transition cell, before you are registered, urine sample taken, statement satisfactory and ready to go Dhoonidhoo detention center for further investigation, or Maafushi jail if you are really lucky.
It was Badhuru's second trip to welfare jail within a month. He was released the first time because the police could not obtain enough evidence to convict him for drug use. He was just another addict among the thousands and thousands that have been victimized for their disease. He had already given his urine and the police wanted a statement admitting that he is a drug addict and they will release him to Narcotics Control Board (NCB). Badhuru knew it was just another game played by the police to get what they want. Badhuru have voluntarily gone to the treatment offered by NCB at DRC twice and thus have used up his quota of 3 years of rehabilitation, thats the limit given by the law. And once that limit of 3 years has been finished and the person relapses, it is a 6 year sentence to jail for drug usage. Unless Badhuru could go to the Detox Center newly opened at that time by NCB at the old Gaamaadhoo area, it was for repeating drug offenders so they could give them a chance to recover within a month without having to go through an intense rehab program. But the reality was that they actually didn't have any space in the DRC ( government rehab). This Detox Center failed in its objectives, and was eventually wiped out during the 2004 tsunami.
Badhuru did not give his statement the way the investigating officer wanted him to. Since it was a weekend the officer told Badhuru to "rot here" until he changed his mind and was transferred from the piss of the first cell to the second cell. That was a privilege. Now Badhuru could have a bed and try to sleep off his time without having to breath through a toilet.
The Second Cell, 1st floor, Welfare Jail
The second cell had bunk beds and it was full of offenders of various degrees. There were people brought in for violence, drug abuse, theft etc etc. The Welfare jail is also a place where prisoners from Maafushi were brought and held temporarily for court hearings and transferred back to their respective prison. Badhuru never thought that this was where the nightmare would start.
Badhuru had his stock of detox medicines prescribed by doctor prior to his arrest, so his cold turkey status was controlled. The guards provided the medicines at the designated times, this was an unusual privilege that came with the "freedom" experienced during that period in the jails. But others were not that lucky to have medicines. There were heroin addicts in severe withdrawal who were vomiting all over the place and screaming with pain. There also were those who had managed to get some drugs into the prison without the guard's detection, so some were high and wasted. Fights kept breaking between those addicts who had drugs and those in withdrawal. It really was a carnival.
After a few days the incident happened.
It was common practice among inmates in Maafushi to fabricate some plan to come to Male' to restock their drug supply. Since after the riots in Maafushi, the prison's were controlled by the Corrections & Rehabilitation Unit (the name could be wrong). And it was fairly easy to manipulate the Correction's guards. In truth they knew what the inmates wanted to do when ever they came to Male' for medical treatment, so they just ask the inmates to return to the boat that transfers them back to Maafushi by the time of departure. Otherwise the prison guards would be in trouble if the authorities knew, so as long as their asses were safe, they did't mind the inmates getting the drugs and taking them back into Maafushi. But they did have to have a medical reason, so they made something up. They sometimes got syringes and withdraw blood from someone and injects it into the nose, or mouth and even the penis so that they will be taken to the Male' hospital. There they will escape, buy the drugs from money collected from other inmates houses in Male', or from their own connections and return to the hospital or the boat that departs to the prison. This way Maafushi jails had more drugs than anyone could imagine. I heard the inmates at the older jail, before the Evan Naseem riot, used to go to the extent of breaking their arms by the help of fellow inmates hoping they will be sent home for at least medical attention. Sadly at that time they were not that successful.
Badhuru was killing time at the Welfare jail, with his pocket already full of local bidi's and bored the hell out of himself after a few futile attempts to feed his addiction. At least the meds helped. Suddenly two guys were roughed up and escorted into the first cell by Golhaa Force. And according to them they were some of the members of the group that came from Maafushi that day for "medical", they robbed a dispensary and were pursued by the cops. All of them hid inside a cemetery but eventually the Golhaa Force a.k.a the Star Force, got there and a huge fight erupted between the two parties. Obviously these guys got their ass kicked by the G. Force. And unsurprisingly at that time, they were blown out of their heads on the pills they had stolen.
Soon the rest of the party that came for "medical" from Maafushi were brought by the G. Force and shoved violently into the first cell of the Welfare jail, the piss cell. Among them were a few notorious prison hardened criminals.
After a while the Duty Officer at Welfare jail requested them to all proceed down stairs as they are to be escorted back to Maafushi Jail, where they came from. This was an attractive offer as they have already got the drugs they wanted and they are returning back to where they intended to. But they also knew that it was bullshit. You don't survive in prison and not be street smart. Suddenly they all decided they will not go anywhere, that they will stay here or they would like some 100% guarantees or something. Because they knew after a fight with cops you are in big big trouble, on top of that they had robbed a dispensary with knife point I think, another terrorist offense that carries a sentence of 10 years. They knew they were been taken, but not to Maafushi, but to the hardcore prison at Dhoonidhoo Jail. At this point the new comers to the cells and the old ones who were with Badhuru were freely interacting, both the cell doors were still open. But that all changed soon.
Slowly the guards started to enter slowly. And the Duty Officer ordered the older prisoners with Badhuru to all go inside the second cell, and locked all of them inside. Nobody wanted to argue as no one wanted a free ticket to Dhoonidhoo. Now the only prisoners out in the corridor and near the first cell were the inmates from Maafushi. Then suddenly the guards grabbed the closest from the inmates and a fight erupted out of no where. The Inmates all crowded together and rushed back down the corridor, which was about 3 feet wide. So although there were many guards, it was difficult for them to barge in and overpower the few inmates due to the space of the corridor. Now the inmates were in front of the second cell where Badhuru and the other prisoners were. The guards of welfare jail rushed in, kicking and grabbing and trying to get hold of the inmates who were all acting as one force, so it was difficult for them to drag just one person out. The prisoners who were inside were shouting and screaming. As the guards tried to force themselves through the corridor to reach the Inmates of Maafushi, the prisoners inside the cell took quarter inch plywood planks that were underneath the mattresses, and pushed the planks through the bars of the cell, blocking the advance of the guards trying to tear any inmate from the huddled up group. Now almost all of them had cuts and were bleeding from a couple of places. The police were also injured. Really badly injured. They had also attacked the prisoners with Badhuru inside the cell, somehow Badhuru saw there was a huge chain inside the cell, it was thrown from outside. And the most badly hurt of the Welfare guards had a deep deep cut just above the eyes, he was bleeding very badly. Badhuru can see the police were furious, they were throwing insults and cursing. They said they were going to get the guy who did it to the guard. Apparently he was hit with a thrown padlock from inside the cell, and they knew who it was. He was a seventeen year old boy, who was really dark skinned so people called him Kalhey. And he was really adrenaline charged and hanging on the bars and saying "Yeah, I did it, and Fuck You..etc". They only managed to grab two guys and now three remained still in the corridor, front of the second cell. It seemed like a stalemate. The police had withdrawn and the inmates were still hanging on.
They changed the tactic. They sent a senior officer to talk to them and tell them that they don't want to hurt them, nor to take them to Dhoonidhoo, they just want to resolve this peacefully and blah blah. This was when Badhuru made a huge mistake. While the officer was talking to the leader among the Maafushi inmates, Badhuru also went closer to the bars where they were talking, and urged the officer to please not use violence and do this peacefully. At that time the officer responded to Badhuru positively saying that its how they want to do this and all. Then came the now assistant commissioner, Mr. Faseeh-sir who also came to talk but was actually trying to pull the inmates apart so they can grab them. Suddenly some prisoners inside were shouting "Don't listen to him", "They are going to trick you", "Its a trap!" etc. So the inmates from Maafushi retreated back and again demanded that they will not leave. By then there were few officers inside the corridor, Faseeh-sir was on the phone all serious anyone could guess that it was Adam Zahir. Slowly the officers retreated. And suddenly came an onslaught of madness! The mad dogs of the Golhaa Force were unleashed and they came screaming and flooded the corridor. Badhuru was standing in front of the bars, just next to inmates. He saw them dragged and thrown down, they were trampled and kicked and their clothes were all torn. They were all dragged out like struggling sheep, it happened so fast as if it was unreal. There was still blood on the corridor floor. The Golhaa Force is an effective unit to terrorize and instigate fear. That is what Badhuru saw. Terror in everyone's eyes, inside the cell was pin drop silence where a minute ago it was filled screaming and cursing, now all were speechless. The violence they just witnessed were too hard to digest. Everyone just sat down and kept quiet.
Pay The Price
After a few minutes the senior officers entered like puffed up roosters. Their attitude now completely different. There was the officer that Badhuru talked to, Faseeh-sir and some more. They were in a rage shouting at the now subdued prisoners in second cell, shouting "Who wants to fuck around now??!!" etc etc. Then Badhuru vividly remembers Faseeh-sir asking "Who are the bastards responsible for the violence that came from inside the cell?". Everyone was involved. Everyone wanted to help the other inmates although they were in the wrong, those who being to jail know that there is only themselves against the cops. In any situation. And the Maafushi riots were not that forgotten then just yet. Suddenly the officer Badhuru talked to before in order to calm them down said pointing to Badhuru, "This is the assole who was in charge of all this shit inside the cell!". Badhuru was utterly shocked!, and tried his best to declare his innocence. But they needed a fall guy for this incident, some one had to pay the price. Faseeh-sir ordered to get Badhuru out of there.
Then the Duty Officer pointed out Kalhey, the boy who threw the padlock that opened a gash on a policeman's forehead. He was dragged out as well. The only thing Badhuru remember about the next turn of events is a bit hazy. He remembered saying over and over again that he was innocent, while he and Kalhey were hand cuffed to the back by Faseeh's order. Kalhey did not say much, he seem to have accepted his fate after his actions. Both of them were hand cuffed to the back and escorted with many many cops, who took them downstairs in order to put them in the isolation cells. Since the door that led to the isolation cells from the inside was still sealed due to the fight, they took them out of the police station and marched them on the street to another door that led in to the isolation cells. All the while the police were cursing Badhuru and Kalhey, pushing them like animals. The other shock Badhuru had was the scene on the street. The fight must have been loud with all the shouting, people outside the police station would have been able to hear it as the outside of the station near the Park area was full of people, curious to see whats happening. As they saw Badhuru and Kalhey been escorted they were shouting, abusing, cursing saying "Kill the hakuru boas!", "Slaughter them!", "Fuck you" etc etc. It was so surreal to Badhuru, he could not believe that it was happening. He was thinking over and over again that he should have just signed that statement a few days ago, or that he should not have talked to the stupid officer and should have remained with his mouth shut.
Badhuru and Kalhey was humiliatingly walked in front of the public and taken back inside the police station where the isolation cells were. There were about 8 ordinary isolation cells, one 'Water cell' a.k.a "Fen Golhi" that were not in use, and even an executive isolation cell, which Badhuru was not able to take a glimpse of. The cells were full. So they just decided to put Badhuru and Kalhey both into the same isolation cell, both still handcuffed to the back. This is a very small cell with one bed and just a toilet at the back, the cell must have been approximately 4x6 feet wide. The cops wanted to charge both of them with assault of a policeman, which carries a sentence of terrorism, that's 10 years in prison.
While both were put into the isolation cell, Kalhey was shouting that he was the one who threw the padlock, but Badhuru was innocent. And to get Badhuru out of there. Badhuru still remembered the braveness of his new in-mate friend and his honestly. He was a good person, must have been 17 years but was obviously more mature than his age after spending most his life in detention centers.
The first things Badhuru and Kalhey did was bring their arms underneath their legs, then pulled the legs through the loops made by the arms so the hand cuffed hands were now in front. These handcuffs the police used had a function that allowed you to lock the cuffs on both hands at a exact size, so that it could not fasten it self slowly as you move around with them. This would have prevented the cuffs from cutting into the skin. However the cops had not fastened this particular function on the cuffs Badhuru and Kalhey had on, they obviously wanted the cuffs to fasten on their hands so they would cut into the skin. It could only be locked with the keys the police guards had. But leaving this function unlocked also created the potential for it to be removed, but with a great risk. You had to have really skinny arms for it to work. All you had to do was empty the whole handcuff's until it passes over the last saw tooth, then you had to place a plastic piece on top of the saw-tooth of the cuffs and pull it back, so that the cuff comes off as the saws cannot grip due to the plastic piece covering the opposite saw-tooths.
Kalhey managed to do it, with the additional directions from another prisoner in one of the isolation cells, because he was really skinny and had skinny arms. Then Kalhey put that cuff on the last saw-tooth, so that he could slide his hands in and out whenever he wanted. He did not want any guards to notice this, they would just re-cuff him with the lock on. But now he could just take that cuff off and comfortably use his hands to eat and use the toilet when non of the guards are looking. Its not easy to move and do things while been hand cuffed 24/7.
But Badhuru was not as lucky. Kalhey and Badhuru emptied the whole handcuff until it reached the end, but since Badhuru's fore arms were thicker than Kalheys the cuffs just stopped after reaching the last two tooths. Badhuru was in immense pain as the cuffs were so tight now that he felt it squeezing his bones. His hands started to turn blue slowly, it was pulsing and the cuffs had already cut into the skin. Kalhey got alarmed and started to scream and bang the cell's steel door to get the guard. The duty officer came and inquired what the matter was and his eyes went wide when he saw Badhuru's hands. He wanted to know how the cuffs got so fastened. Badhuru and Kalhey said that the police had not locked the cuffs from tightening and by accident Badhuru's cuffs got tightened while trying to use his hands. The lie did not matter much, the officer did not want anything fetal happening on his watch so he quickly got the keys and loosened the cuffs on Badhuru's hands and locked it this time to prevent from tightening. Badhuru hands were completely swollan and the cuffs had cut really deep on that hand compared to the other. This was the consequences of failure to accomplish this feat of removing hand cuffs.
Once Badhuru asked Kalhey why he threw the padlock at that particular cop during the fight. "Revenge" remarked Kalhey. Apparently while Kalhey was in isolation cell some time back, he was laying down on the cell floor, and had his head partially out of the gap below the cell's steel door. He was sleeping when this guard for no reason kicked Kalhey's head with his ankle boots to wake him up. This was some of the common torture the police do to the prisoners, they vent out their frustrations and misgivings in this sadistic fashion. So therefore Kalhey took the opportunity of the fight to take revenge on that guard. To Badhuru, it was a justified act. Because although conditions were better at that time in the jails, the environment automatically induced aggression and anger into all inmates. The guard got what he deserved.
All the guards were talking aloud threatening Kalhey and Badhuru when ever they came close to their cell. They were really pissed because one of their men got injured that badly. Kalhey and Badhuru had to sleep on a single mattress on the floor in front of the cell door, which had the only opening on the bottom that allowed to peek at outside. Both of them could communicate with the other prisoners in the isolation cells by shouting, the guards did not care about it. Badhuru had about two dozen of bidi's and a lighter when he was escorted to the isolation cell. So that took care of the nicotine needs that is an essential in lock up situations. There were prisoners brought for many reasons. They heard a boy being brought late one night and thrown inside the "water cell'" since the other cells were full, they could hear the "thud" of the boy hitting the wall as he was tossed in like a doll. He was brought for attacking some one with a box cutter. Then there were the addicts, some brought late night high on the "Vaanuvaa Stuff", they have no clue they are in the police station even. They were so high and once they wake up the next day it was comical to see them utterly confused once they realized they were in jail, and they have no idea how they got there. There was even a political activist brought in because he had video taped a dead addict while he was examined at the hospital and during the burial. It was suspected that police had something to with the person's death. All of the prisoners interacted, sang songs, annoyed the guards trying to kill time.
It was hard to tell the time of the day while you are in the isolation cells of the welfare jail. The whole area outside cells were always lit with white lights. Making it impossible to determine whether its day or night, it was very disorienting. The only indication of time were the meals that were brought in. These meals were a little better than eating shit. Badhuru does not want to go too deep and analyze the food that was brought, as it still makes him nauseous even now. The prisoners used the "fishing" technique to pass things to and fro from their isolation cells. Things like pills or bidi's were passed using a tooth paste bottle tied to a string of rope, made with strips cut from the bed sheet. The receiver will throw the tooth paste bottle, or slide it until the other person can grab it, so then he could place whatever is to be given on the tooth paste bottle, or tie it to it. Once it is done, the other person will pull it to get the item.
Once Kalhey and Badhuru burnt a piece of cloth and used the ash to decorate the walls of the cell. Badhuru blacked out one day as well while taking a piss, if Kalhey was not there to support him he would have had serious injuries that time. Kalhey promised that if they were taken for investigation to Dhoonidhoo, he would tell them that Badhuru had nothing to do with the fight drama. Badhuru is grateful and humbled to this day for Kalhey's noble gesture. However Badhuru was luckier than Kalhey in the end.
One late night the guard who got injured by Kalhey returned. He was not on duty so was in plain clothes. He had a huge bandage on his forehead covering his wound. Badhuru and Kalhey heard a commotion where the angry guard was demanding the keys to their cell, he managed to get it and came near the cell. He threatened Kalhey that he is going to thrash the hell out of him. Badhuru and Kalhey was also shouting and calling other guards to help them, they threatened the guard if he entered he will regret as well, although they were both hand cuffed. He took the padlock off from the cell door to hit Kalhey with it and was about enter when the Duty officer ran down and held the insane guard from entering. He was urging him to control himself, and that it was a big mistake and to wait for the proper chance to do whatever he wanted. Eventually the guard calmed down, now all the prisoners were also awake in the other cells due to the commotion. He left eventually. Badhuru wondered what the consequences would have been if the guard entered and a fight broke between them. They were lucky to avoid it.
After spending a tormenting week in the cell without a shower or change of clothes, both Kalhey and Badhuru's condition started to deteriorate. One early morning the Duty Officer of the new shift was doing the check run before his watch started. At that time Badhuru was awake and Kalhey was asleep, the officer came and asked Badhuru why he was in the isolation. Badhuru told him about the fight, why he was actually brought to the police and about the statement he had to sign. The cop took Badhuru's details, and it turned out to be someone who knew Badhuru's family. He said he is going to check Badhuru's situation and let him know. After 15 minutes the officer returned with another guard and told Badhuru that he is going to be taken out of the isolation cell. Badhuru was ecstatic. Badhuru woke Kalhey up and told him that he was been taken out. And that he will do what he can to help Kalhey out of this situation and help him out of the 10 year sentence. Unfortunately that was the last time Badhuru saw Kalhey, he has never been able to find out what happened to Kalhey after that. Because Badhuru never had enough details of his friend. But he will always remember him forever and had promised himself that he will find him one day.
The Four Inch Carpet
Badhuru is from a well to do, respected family in Male'. His parents have been relentlessly trying to locate their son, because after the fight and the confusion the cops could not tell where he was. Badhuru's father had contacted the police commissioner Adam Zahir as well.
Badhuru was taken upstairs and met with the head of the Drug Control Beaurea (DCB). He ordered the guard to take off the cuffs. Badhuru's both arms were cut due to the hand cuffs continously rubbing into this skin for a whole week. This is nothing compared to the tortures that prisoners went through before the Evan Naseem incident. The DCB big shot then told the guards to get him some fresh clothes and to let him take a shower. He told Badhuru that the police commissioner Adam Zahir wants to meet him. Badhuru was speechless. What the fuck is going on now? he thought. The DCB head asked Badhuru whether he will sign the statement he refused to earlier, of course he will. At that point Badhuru would have done anything to avoid been charged with terrorism, so he agreed instantly to sign it.
After a shower Badhuru was escorted by the head of DCB to the commisioners office. As Badhuru recalls, they took an elevator to to the top floor and waited in a hall way for the permission to enter.
As Badhuru entered with the DCB head into Adam Zahir's office, the most vivid thing he remembers is that his feet sank about 3-4 inches into the carpet that was layed in the room. It was a lush carpet, with a huge intricately curved table facing who ever enters the room. And behind sat the notorious Adam Zahir.
Adam Zahir told Badhuru to sit down. It was hard to believe this was happening to Badhuru. He was more shocked than to comprehend anything else. Adam Zahir said he knows Badhuru's father and that his father have been very concerned. He said that some like Badhuru who is from a good family should not be involved in drugs. He gave little pep talk about the dangers of drug addiction and becoming something in life. Badhuru could not believe this was happening, the most notorious and contreversial figures in maldives giving him advice? What bullshit!! But Badhuru knew better that to talk too much, so he just nodded his head, kept quiet and pretended to listen. After this surreal meeting Badhuru was taken out and made to sign his statement. He was then taken down stairs and out of the police station. The cops agreed to file Badhuru's case if he sought treatment with NCB at the new Detox Center at Gaamaadhoo. Badhuru agreed, this was the best choice he had anyway. Within an hour of being taken out of the isolation cell, Badhuru was taken to NCB, and his custody now transferred. Badhuru was lucky enough to escape from the clutches of the police with a few "minor scrapes". But this was not the end of Badhuru's chronicles in the oppressed regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom.
More of Badhuru's journey through the under world of Maldives will be coming to Mr. Karma's blog soon.