On Friday, 22 April 2022, Nargis Khalid Saifi, wife of human rights activist Khalid Saifi penned an emotional note on Facebook. She was describing her visit to Mandoli jail in the national capital where Khalid Saifi has been held under draconian UAPA in Delhi violence conspiracy case since his arrest in 2020 February. This is the English version of Nargis’s note in Hindi. The original post was translated by Mehwish Asim.
Today I’ll take you all on a journey to prison, a journey that weighs on my shoulders. Yesterday (21 April 2022) was my appointed date for the visit. I was restless since suhur and have been worried that Khalid would be waiting for me. I couldn’t sleep and got up at 7:30 and left, leaving behind my sleeping kids. I reached Mandoli jail at around 8:00 a.m. There was a long queue where people were waiting to converge with their loved ones. After noticing the number of Muslims in the line I realized half of the Muslims were engaged in feasts and half of them was locked up in the prisons. The remaining members of the prisoner’s family were either struggling in court or outside the jail. The prison is brimming with Muslims. I saw an old mother standing in the line, an old father keeping his self-respect aside, voicelessly listening to the fulminations of police.
Well, I took two pairs of clothes for Saifi, and as soon as I got in, I was informed that only one pair can be carried along. The female authority sitting outside was extremely ill-mannered. I Asked for permission to keep my clothes with me as I couldn’t find a suitable place to keep them, she replied in a very harsh tone “keep them anywhere you want or throw them away but you can carry only one pair.” Instead of arguing, I kept one pair under the shade of a tree and left it in the trust of Allah.
I came back and joined the line again after crossing that step and reached the next level. After that I was frisked- my niqaab was removed by the authorities, and they asked me to untie my hair. This process was repeated twice. The way in which the female authorities were touching my body, ridiculed me. They were acting as if they all have accepted the fact that all the Muslims inside the prison are culprits, their families are evildoers and have no respect of their own.
Waiting for long hours to spend some time with their loved ones lodged behind bars is torture in itself. It took me two hours to cross these hurdles and reach Khalid’s prison. I Handed over my slip to the officer and he called Khalid. I sat in the waiting room for half an hour. That room was terribly hot, summer at its peak, and my throat was dried up due to the hot winds. There was a feeling of restlessness, I came to see him after a long time. Khalid often tried to stop me from visiting him, but this time I resisted and came to see him.
After waiting for some time I heard his voice and immediately went to see him. He was very happy to see me, the spark in his eyes was clearly visible. We picked up the receiver and started talking. We looked at each other more than we talked. Regardless of the glass and rods between us he tried to hold my hand, he tried to touch my fingers. His eyes shed sparkling tears for me.
He was distressed for me, despite the scorching heat, my fast, leaving the kids alone, I came to see him. He was apologetic and said, “I’m sorry, you are facing this situation all because of me.”
I went there to listen to him, he was speaking his heart out. He is going through a pain that none of us can feel. The place he was living in was extremely hot and not even coolers were there to help, fans were so slow as if they were breathing their last breath. The roof, walls, floor, and the air from the windows are all burning, the ceiling fans seem to say that they can’t help anymore. The sheet needs to be wet to give some relief.
In these conditions, when the health of Khalid is not alright, getting neither proper food nor getting proper treatment, he doesn’t leave a single Roza (fast), he’s not cutting his Taraweeh and Tahajjud short. In this weather, where a lot of people are avoiding the masjid despite all privileges, the faith of Khalid stands strong and we both know that if we’re not getting any material goodness in this condition, we’re getting Allah and His company and when a person gets Him, he doesn’t need anyone. Maybe, it was the will of Allah that we talked a bit and half an hour passed. I heard a voice from behind which said that your time is up. I asked the officer to let us wait a couple of minutes more. He replied that the allowed time is just 15 minutes and I had already exceeded that. I smiled at him and said thank you. The aggression in his tone sunk my heart as I realized that I have to leave Khalid alone at a place where they don’t consider us humans.
As soon as we disconnected the phones, we both had our eyes filled with tears and it looked like we both were expressing our exhaustion to each other and just wanted to go back home. But, we knew it wasn’t possible, we just said Allah Hafiz, cut the call, exchanged a glance at each other, and walked away. While coming out, I couldn’t control my tears.
It felt like I was surrounded by darkness and my feet were trembling. A policeman saw me, inquired if I was ok, and asked me to sit and have water, but since I was fasting, I politely refused. Gathering myself after this brief moment, I thanked the man and came out. This journey which started at 7:30 AM reached 11:30 AM. Then, I booked an auto and reached home by midday. As soon as I entered, the kids hugged me and asked about their Abbu. Khalid had written letters as a gift to his children which I delivered and it made all three of them overjoyed.
Khalid sent salaam to all of you, remember him and others in your prayers. May Allah give us and you the strength to fight against the cruel fascism with unity and courage. The world is a prison for the believers anyway. If you imprison us, we will enlighten the prisons just like Prophet Yusuf did. Neither we feared them, nor will we In Sha Allah. We will continue the fight against injustice with determination and courage.
I’ll try my best to get you back, I’ll not leave you on destiny. I’ll not be your weakness, I’ll be your strength and will always stand by your side.