The Bhagat Singh of modern-day Gilgit-Baltistan
Many political activists following the Baba Jan case have remarked upon the similarity in the actions of Baba Jan and legendary revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, hanged in Lahore Camp Jail on 23rd March, 1931.
Just as Bhagat Singh continued his struggle for justice and freedom within the confines of the various jails where he was held, so has Baba Jan defied craven convention and “common sense” and raised the bar at every step.
It is thanks to his organising work among the prisoners that he was able to convince them as well as the jail authorities to end the segregation of the inmate population along sectarian lines. But he did not stop there: he reminded the prisoners that, despite being in jail, they still retained some rights and should not consider themselves utterly subject to the whims of the jail administration. This, of course, runs counter to the whole spirit of the jail system, especially in a colonial context, where the aim is to criminalise even the last vestiges of the natural human desire to live in dignity.
When the prisoners learned of the existence of a manual regulating certain basic aspects of life in the jail and that, in fact, the administration was systematically violating the rights of the detainees as defined in the jail manual, they started challenging the authorities and demanding their rights. A particularly nettlesome issue is non-compliance with the manual with regards to the menu. Finally, on the 25th of April, 2012, the prisoners and the jail administration clashed violently, with the prisoners beating up the jail policemen quite badly.
The attack on Iftikhar Hussain, Ameer Khan, Amir Ali, Rashid Minhas and Baba Jan on 28th April, 2012 is thus understood as reprisal for the general prisoners’ revolt, another failed attempt to silence their indomitable courage, an attempt that has back-fired very badly and put public pressure on the government to drop all the fabricated charges brought against them.