Chhattisgarh – Letter to NHRC on the denial of rights to political prisoners at Raipur Central Jail


Sanhati

May 8, 2013

by Prashant Rahi

This is to bring to your notice the unrepentant high-handedness of the authorities of the Raipur Central Jail in Chhattisgarh as regards thedenial of fundamental and human rights to two of their under-trialinmates whom I visited there last week, both senior, well-educated citizens of the country.

It was on April 26, 2013 that I visited these two under-trials with due permission from the Jail Superintendent. One of them is called Purnendu Mukherji, a resident of Kolkata (aged 70 years), and the other, Varanasi Subrahmaniam, a resident of Andhra Pradesh (aged 57 years). Both have spent about 3 years in various jails of the country ever since they were shown arrested in Bihar. To the best of my knowledge, they have been framed up in cases related to a violent incident reported some time ago from the Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh, which may have been an outcome of the ongoing civil war in that state between the Maoist-led forces on the one hand and the paramiltary and police forces on the other. These two political prisoners, whom I visited, appear to have been falsely implicated in the case/s related to this incident simply because they were among the alleged Maoist leaders already incarcerated in some other part of the country, and hence vulnerable to be charged by the Chhattisgarh police, hard-pressed as they were to affix the blame for the untoward incident on one civilian suspect or the other. While Purnendu Mukherji’s trial proceedings arew ell underway at the Rajnandgaon District and Sessions Court, Varanasi Subrahmaniam (who was recently transferred early this year to Raipur Central Jail from District Jail, Warangal, AP) has not yet been served any charge-sheet in this matter. The two are charged under various sections of the IPC, such as waging war against the state and sedition as well as the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2008.

As per the security provisions for such so-called high-profile prisoners, my meeting with the two was arranged in the office of the Additional Jail Superintendent, to which neither did my prisoner friends nor I have any objection. However, the mere seriousness of the charges against these prisoners – itself a very common occurrence for the hundreds and thousands of tribals and activists thrown behind bars in that state – cannot be allowed to be made a ground for the denial of their fundamental and human rights. My objections on this count are as follows:

* The jail official, in whose office my two prisoner friends and I were seated during my visit, remained ensconced within earshot of our conversation, and was listening throughout. This violated the stipulated norms for prison visits by family members and friends and legal advisers.

* Other prisoners who worked in the Jail office were also well within earshot.

* In addition, an official in plain clothes, who did not work in the jail, but was very obviously an informer or intelligence official of the very police, who had fabricated the case against my two prisoner friends, seated himself on a chair right next to me, even closer to us than the jail officials and the other prisoners.

Personally, I found such eavesdropping a serious infringement upon my own civil right to converse freely with my friends and ask about their well-being and about the details of the cases foisted upon them. I did raise objections there and then, stressing that agents of the very same state that had foisted the case could not be allowed to overhear our conversation, and that there should be a sufficient distance of a few metres between us and any official or any other person for that matter, such that we could be seen and observed clearly for security reasons, but our conversation could not be heard. Such pleas, however, went unheeded within the premises of the prison with the officials not even batting an eyelid. This may also be perceived as an outright denial to my friends of their right to a free and fair trial. If officials of the state can be allowed to overhear every aspect of the preparations and mutual discussions of the defence side, then how can the accused expect to convey in confidence their defence points and arguments to their visiting lawyers or to friends like me who would coordinate between them and their defence lawyers? This is especially so in the case of these two prisoners who are total strangers to Raipur and Rajnandgaon, and badly need help from friends like me to co-ordinate their legal defence. The few relatives who visit them live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, and hence cannot pay regular visits to the jail and court.

The jail officials allowed us only 20 minutes, with all the interruptions and interventions owing to the unwarranted eavesdropping by the jail and police officials and other prisoners.

Among the instances of denial of basic human rights to these two prisoner friends of mine, which were brought to my notice during those 20 minutes, the following are liable to be considered as serious violations:

1. The jail officials refused to let them read a copy of the Jail Manual. It seemed as if the officials did not want to inform the prisoners of the officially laid out rules and regulations along with their own rights and obligations. Not providing copies of the Jail Manual was a common ploy adopted by the authorities to remain unquestioned while putting up a high-handed and arbitrary behaviour. My prisoner friends told me in front of the jail official present that they had been asking for the Jail Manual for several months, yet the official maintained his stoic refusal to comply with their request.

2. In most Jail Manuals, prisoners are said to possess the right to write and receive letters. In this jail, however, I was told by my prisoner friends (with the Jail official silently listening on) that letters sent to them by family members were not delivered. Varanasi Subrahmaniam said that he had once asked for a message to be wired through telegram to his lawyer in Andhra Pradesh, but no such facility was granted. Similarly, speed post facility even at one’s own cost was denied even if the matter concerned some urgent, legal issue. The same prisoner friend of mine further complained that a letter, which he wanted to send to seek some pertinent information under the RTI, 2005, could not be sent due to this high-handed attitude of the officials.

3. An elder brother of Varanasi Subrahmaniam, who visits him once in a month or two, had during his last visit subscribed to the reputed newspaper, The Hindu on the latter’s behalf. However, the jail authorities had neither co-operated nor allowed him to procure copies of this newspaper. Even such innocuous reading material was flatly denied.

4. The usual jail newspaper when circulated into the barracks of these two prisoners would often be found to be heavily censored. Even such news items that did not pose any threat to the maintenance of order in the jail and did not directly impact its security would be invariably cut up. Especially with prisoners, who have been detained for political reasons or those who have certain political inclinations and beliefs, denial of the right to read all that he or she may wish to read from registered newspapers, magazines and books openly available in the market would amount to outright denial of his or her right to information and knowledge.

5. Even serious books that could be food for thought for anyone who may be concerned with the betterment of our society are not allowed as reading material for these two prisoners.

6. Varanasi Subrahmaniam is further not allowed to read in his mother tongue, Telugu.

7. Writing materials such as blank papers and other permissible stationery items are also not provided in the course of normal routine.

8. Apart from the above instances of the denial of fundamental and human rights that seemed part and parcel of the normal manner of administration at this prison, the septuagenarian among the two, Purnendu Mukherji told me that he was suffering from a number of ailments, some of which are quite serious and needed urgent investigation and treatment at an appropriate advanced referral centre outside the state of Chhattisgarh. The ailments he is currently suffering from include chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease, arthritis, hernia, spinal problems and gastric trouble. A special diet, as may be permissible, was also required for him.

At the end of my visit, I tried to appeal to the Additional Jail Superintendent, who was overseeing my visit, in the hope that my prisoner friends would be accorded human treatment, especially as no crime was yet proven to have been perpetrated by them. However, I soon realized that my appeal fell on deaf ears, and I was left with no option but let this apex watchdog of the state of human rights in our country, as also the world at large,know what transpires within the underbelly of our criminal justice system, namely jails like the one at Raipur.

I urge you to please help restore the rights of the two prisoners whom I visited on April 26.I am forwardinga copy of this letter for the sake of information to the Jail Superintendent, Raipur Central Jail, and to some concerned civil liberties and democratic rights activists in the country.

 

You Say You Want A Revolution – Film Review


Sanjay Kak’s new documentary is a love song to people across the country fighting to save our soul. Saroj Giri takes a first look

SAROJ GIRI

11-05-2013, Issue 19 Volume 10

2 / 2
Director’s cut: Sanjay Kak

Gandhi taught us that while a political or public victory is possible in war, it however degrades you as a moral being. Think of, say, the Rwandan genocide or the Bosnian conflict. Going by this, the Adivasi Maoists involved in a war in Chhattisgarh, should come across as utterly degraded beings caught in a spiral of violence. With a scribe and a camera in front of them, they should’ve started wailing about their miseries, pleading for exit from the hellish war.

Indeed, what kind of a filmmaker is it who comes back with news that something beautiful and forward-looking is flowering precisely in the midst of all the war and conflict? For God’s sake, why is he not talking about ‘conflict resolution’ or making the Maoists surrender arms, or restoring the government’s writ in the ‘red corridor’ and initiating ‘development’, and so on?

Instead Red Ant Dream — filmmaker Sanjay Kak’s new documentary — starts with Bhagat Singh declaring that “the state of war does exist and shall exist”. The viewer is already pushed to think: what is this war, which goes back to Bhagat Singh and is not just the ongoing war between the armed guerrillas and the security forces?

Brecht once asked what is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank. Or as one old saying goes, the law catches the thief who steals the geese off the land, but lets off the bigger thief who captures the land off the geese. Banks and law, among other things, are part of a class war, but they are perceived as normal functioning, business as usual. There is no class war, we are told, only peace and democracy. There is no real structural inequality, only asymmetrical life chances or bad luck for some. There is no corporate land grab, only development and growth, without which India will be left out in the global arena.

Everything is nice, everything is fine, except for some exceptions here and there, some terrorists or violent guerrillas! What we have then is a social order constituted by war, but where the war never appears as war as such, appearing instead as peace and/or democracy, or simply ‘growth’. Because of this, revolutionaries who accept that this war exists and take sides are easily smeared as violent, or as terrorists, as immoral. This film challenges this narrative and establishes that revolutionaries open up real utopian possibilities through war, and renders the existing order less impenetrable, less unchallengeable than it appears. It intimately moves along the pregnant fissures and faultlines revolutionaries have patiently furrowed in the belly of the beast.

Red Ant Dream maps the ongoing dirty war over mineral resources. It opens with big dumper trucks ferrying goods, ores and minerals, with big dusty factories in the background. Next, it sets up the ‘two sides’: armed guerrillas in the forest and severe looking security forces. War over resources morphs into the war between these two sides: this is the purported, perhaps intended, frame within which the film signals its unfolding.

But as the film unfolds, it becomes clear that there are no two sides, since they simply do not mirror each other. The guerrillas come across not as warmongering soldiers but, to use Rasta-speak, as souljas, or, in Gandhi-speak, as moral beings. They are not just opposing the enemy. Real opposition is achieved only when you are no longer determined by the conditions set by the enemy you are fighting. The film brings us signs of a real freedom and emancipation, where the Maoists are pointing to a different social order, a different way of relating and approaching life.

Far from being merely one ‘side’ in a dirty war, the Adivasi and the jungle become a metaphor for a rupture and a utopian stirring. From deep within the jungle, a voice emerges: violence is a structural feature built into our hierarchical, oppressive and rotten society. It feels like an infinite judgement on the present order. It refuses to be an ‘opposition voice’, refuses to engage in the rhetoric of ‘democratic opposition’ or the ‘struggle for hegemony’, and instead heralds the dissolution of this order

And then it is the Bhumkal festival. Here the many red flags amidst Adivasi drumbeats and brightly costumed dancers and ‘Gandhians with a gun’ will leave the middle class red radical riveted to the screen. It feels like a dream where you go and touch that other world of freedom. The Adivasi leader Gundadhur is celebrated amidst calls for “death to imperialism” and “long live the new democratic revolution”. You forget that in the melee of the crowds are women People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) soldiers with guns dancing to the drums. Weren’t these soldiers supposed to be atop watchtowers?

There is then, in effect, no two sides, only one side — the side of revolution and life. The big companies live through loot and plunder, through exploitation and terror, trying to live off our land, lives and resources. They, as the Niyamgiri Adivasis explain, only have the pot with boiling water, but “the rice is with us”. And so if we don’t give them the rice and what we have in our mountains, “they are in trouble”. In other words, they need us, we don’t need them.

The philosopher Alain Badiou reminds us that there aren’t two worlds, one of the capitalists and another of the oppressed and marginalised. We must claim that there is only one world and it is all ours: “Ek baag nahi, ek khet nahi, hum saari duniya maangenge”. The same voice is heard from the Adivasis of Niyamgiri, Lakhpadar, Muniguda and beyond, to the activists in Punjab upholding the legacy of Bhagat Singh, and Pash, the poet of revolutionary dreams.

And yet, in the meantime, there are ‘two sides’, for there is a war. Hence the enemy enlists the poor in its ranks, in the army and, worse, you have the Salwa Judum, which has many ordinary Adivasis in its ranks. You see state propaganda videos in which Mahendra Karma (a founder of the vigilante militia) tells us that Salwa Judum is a spontaneous uprising of the Adivasis against Naxalites. And then goes on to boast about the support of the government and the police!

In Red Ant Dream, we see rare footage from the training camps of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker. We hear about plans for the “creeping reoccupation of territory” from the Maoists and establishing the writ of the government. “Towards this aim,” we learn, “the entire spectrum of national power must be mobilised with the security forces at the forefront.” There’s also Maoist video footage that documents torture by security forces.

Overall, the film’s strength is that it wants to go beyond the spatial specificity of the Adivasi struggle as an indigenous movement (in this forest, against this particular mining company, and so on) and tease out a wider revolutionary left current. Hence its basic orientation is not one of romanticising the Adivasi way of life.

There is, however, one major tension in Red Ant Dream: in the way it presents industrialisation and modernity. The factories and plants are rightly presented as scary and oppressive. The long shot visuals of the industrial plants conjure up this image. But then these industries appear as an absolutely repressive deadweight thing and not as constituted by internal social relations (of capital exploiting labour), not as internally riven by class struggle. Hence the fact that there are potential allies of the Adivasis inside those factories — the workers — does not get taken seriously. Or, for example, that striking Maruti workers could be (potential) allies of displaced Adivasis. This would require an inside-out close-up of the industrial plant so that displaced Adivasis and workers can be seen together to form the proletariat — the properly communist perspective. The proletariat demands the whole world, and not just the protection of its own habitat (jal, jangal, jameen).

The film does come close to exploring this dimension. At one point, there is a conversation with two workers of the Vedanta mining company. They are in solidarity with the Adivasi villagers but still work for the hated company. They know that the company exploits them, that the real wealth is in the mountains and not in the city. But they have to work in the factory since they have no other way to feed their family. The jal, jangal, jameen option is not available to them. So what will be their terms of solidarity with those Adivasis who can revert to their jal, jangal, jameen and who want the company out? Only a wider movement can address these questions.

Another tension is with regards to the use of Bhagat Singh’s legacy. Here ‘anti-imperialism’ seems overloaded with nationalist or patriotic fervour. So the three men shouting “bagawat, bagawat, bagawat” to defend and “give our life for the nation” would surely run counter to the Adivasis in Niyamgiri who want to question the nation itself. Those upholding the legacy make tall promises about sacrifice and revolution. This contrasts with the fighting guerrillas who make no such claims.

At another level, the convergence of rebels and forests in the film is of wider provenance. The movie Pan’s Labyrinth has the little girl running away from the fascists only to find support from the rebels in the forests. Here again the fascists are parasitic and vampirish while the rebels stand for the rupture of the status quo, for life and a brighter future. The rebels seem a realisation of the freedom the girl always yearned for. Or think of Satyajit Ray’s Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, when the dancing spirits of the forest offer boons to Goopy and Bagha. These boons set them on a fantasmatic high, give them a footing as it were to critique or reject existing society for its harshness and inequalities: the impossible becomes possible.

Unlike these movies, there is nothing oracular in the Red Ant Dream: here, the fantastic is snatched from the jaws of reality, of war and class struggle, through patient work among the masses. The imposed reality of war is turned around into the possibility of a better society: what else can be more fantastic!

Red Ant Dream will be screened at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on 7 May

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 19, Dated 11 May 2013)

Saroj Giri     

24  2  0 Tumblr0   - See more at: http://tehelka.com/you-say-you-want-a-revolution/#sthash.12IqeVad.zT4oA5dV.dpuf

 

Press Release-Condemn the Growing Tendencies of Re-arrests of Political Activists!


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

 

Dated: 19.04.2013

Condemn the Growing Tendencies of Re-arrests of Political Activists!

Condemn the Brutal Torture and Illegal Detention of Zakir Hussain!!

Release Zakir Hussain and Sabyasachi Goswami

Immediately and Unconditionally!

Punish the Officers Responsible for the Torture and

Illegal Confinement of Zakir Hussain!

 

Yet again the People of West Bengal are being witness to another instance of police brutality, trampling all constitutional norms, perpetration of third degree torture in police lock-up and the submission of false statements in the court of law. In its treatment of dissident voices, the present Mamata-led government is no different from the previous Buddhadev-led government which had ruled the state of West Bengal for more than 3 decades.

On 19 April 2013, Zakir Hussain and Sabyasachi Goswami were produced in Bankshall Court, Kolkata. The police force (STF) as usual showed them to have been arrested on 18 April from Behala in Kolkata for having Maoist links. Zakir had signs of police torture in STF lock-up all over his body and was almost unable to move. Actually, Zakir was arrested on 15th from Dharmatala in Kolkata—a place other than what was stated before the court. He was produced after four days of arrest—a clear violation of Supreme Court directives which makes it binding for the police to produce an arrested person within 24 hours of arrest. Zakir’s face was covered by a mask by the police in the lock-up to escape identification. Then he was beaten black and blue to extract confession—yet another violation of court directives and UN Covenant relating to Civil and Political Rights.  Sabyasachi Goswami was picked up on 18 April from Piyali, Canning in South 24-Parganas. He was subjected to mental and physical torture and was not allowed to sleep the intervening night between 18 and 19. They, as usual, were implicated in false cases like carrying arms and indulging in seditious acts, having Maoist connections.

 Both Zakir and Sabyasachi were arrested and incarcerated earlier for years together in another case and both were acquitted and released in 2011 after spending six years in prison. Both of them had been attending courts regularly since then in cases where they were released on bail. Last year, the STF raided the house of Sabyasachi and threatened his relatives. His mother who had been suffering from various ailments had a traumatic experience and she expired recently—a clear case of death by torture, brutal police forces driving a mother to her death by intimidation. This is how ‘democracy’ works in this ‘this largest democracy’ in the world.

Re-arrests of activists who have been acquitted of previous trumped up charges that too after prolonged periods of incarceration—in this case six years—has become a regular feature of the modus operandi of the police forces whether it is in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa Bihar etc. This while undoubtedly shows the growing impunity of the police and other special forces as well as investigating agencies is further becoming a standard operating procedure vis-à-vis criminalizing all forms of political dissent in the subcontinent.     

At CRPP, we unequivocally condemn the re-arrest of Zakir Hussain and Sabyasachi Goswami, the torture perpetrated on them in police custody by the notorious Special Task Force under the Mamata Banerjee-led government, demand exemplary punishment of those police personnel guilty of committing torture as well as the immediate and unconditional release of the political prisoners.

 

In Solidarity,

 

SAR Geelani                  

President                

 

Amit Bhattacharyya             

Secretary General                    

 

Sujato Bhadro              

Vice-president           

 

MN Ravunni

Vice President

 

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations

 

#India- Observe 23-30 March week -unconditional release of political prisoners and repealing draconian laws #AFPSA


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

ON MARCH 23—BHAGAT SINGH, SUKHDEV AND RAJGURU’S MARTYRDOM DAY

OBSERVE THE WEEK 23-30 MARCH 
FOR THE UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
TO REPEAL ALL DRACONIAN LAWS INCLUDING AFSPA & UAPA!
FOR POLITICAL PRISONERS STATUS TO ALL THOSE WHO HAS BEEN INCARCERATED FOR THEIR POLITICAL VIEWS!
NO TO DEATH PENALTY!

Revolutionaries never die. The martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru once again reiterate this truth. Their martyrdom epitomises the veritable saying even in death we shall dare! Yes the indefatigable spirit of the three martyrs still enlivens the struggle for justice and truth for many of the oppressed and exploited in the Indian subcontinent as well as the world. The conviction of the three martyrs as young revolutionaries to swim against the tide, to dare to dream of a new world and break new paths for the emancipation of the vast sections of the toiling masses of the subcontinent still lingers in the dreams of many in Post-47 India.

Today when we observe the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh-Sukhdev-Rajguru little have things changed from the days of colonial vintage with the vast sections of the people of the subcontinent living in abysmal conditions—literal hand to mouth existence—with uncertainties abounding their lives. All the efforts of these peoples to make their world a better place to live, with dignity, equality, security as human beings have been met with the worst forms of violence from the powers that be. The pro-imperialist, Development State that was ushered in, post-1947, in the Indian subcontinent has systematically pushed these peoples to the margins so much so that their survival is under peril. Every effort of the people to do away with this model of development that replicates the exploitative, oppressive structures of surplus maximisation of the local parasitic classes in alliance with imperialist interests have been met with criminal profiling by the Indian State. Several draconian legislations enacted since 1947 by the Indian State have been in one form or the other retained in many such legislations to follow till date despite protests from the progressive, democratic sections of the society. The present day Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) has turned out to be one of the most draconian legislations with scores of people put behind the bars under this act. Along with this is the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that is in force in the regions of the North East and Kashmir as well as a surfeit of draconian security laws framed by the various state governments in India. The simultaneity in the spate of legislations of various kinds of draconian security acts by almost all state governments in India along with the aggressive implementation of the policies of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation is significant. The last 15 years itself has witnessed this unprecedented rise of different forms of penal laws that are being used with impunity to silence and incarcerate many a Bhagat Singhs, Sukhdevs and Rajgurus in the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. But despite the beastly demeanour of the Indian State not a single project or policy initiative—be it mining, land grab, dam construction, super highways, forest land, or setting up of mega-steel plants etc—of the Indian government has gone without the news of protests from the masses of the people who have resorted to every form and means to defend their land and livelihoods.

At a time when from the various ministries of the central government to the Governors and chief ministers of the states let alone the lowest commandant of the paramilitary at the ground are all preaching ‘development’—an euphemism for further violence on them in the form of land grab, displacement from their habitat, a policy of unbridled loot and plunder of people’s resources—to the people the real violent face of the state has never been exposed so blatantly before the people. The duplicity of this talk of development of the State has never been more evident as it is today. The struggle of the vast sections of the people left with little options should also be seen in this context as an attempt to stay alive amidst the dance of death in the form of malnutrition, hunger, lack of opportunities of production and reproduction of their material world. The rural economy which has traditionally been the backbone of the vast sections of the people as the largest employment provider has been perilously stagnant the situation moving from bad to worse as the state has totally neglected any form of constructive expenditure in this area. The fear of more Bhagat Singhs and his ilk rising again from this genuine anger that vast sections of the toiling masses share with their martyred freedom fighter is palpable in the response of the state as more and more forces abound those areas of the subcontinent where the land is rich abundant with resources inhabited by the poorest of the poor. More and more prisons and state-of-the-art police stations are being built in the areas populated by the poorest of the people. The garrison state teethed with penal laws is fast becoming a reality.

Thus the target of the State which is in service of moribund capital in deep crisis has been the poor Adivasis, dalits, various nationality groups such as the Kashmiris, Nagas, Manipuri people, Assamese, Kamtapuris, the Muslim minorities who have become easy targets of the so-called war against terror. Around 25000 adivasis have been put behind bars in various prisons in the states of Chhattisgrah, Jharkhand, Orissa, Jungalmahal in West Bengal etc. Hundreds of Muslims framed in several cases as part of the ideological campaign of the Indian State which as pitched itself as the able partner of US imperialism in the so-called war against terror. The undeclared number of Kashmiri Muslims kept in various prisons as well as secret torture and detention centres run into thousands. Further India has become the biggest purchaser of weapons in the international market while it has little to spend on health and education.

As every form of dissent—struggle for better wages and working conditions, better and subsidized education, employment, livelihood, against displacement and land grab etc., is being criminalised by the State as the activists and their leadership of various struggles are being put behind bars with trumped up cases, anyone who has taken the trouble to question the anti-people, pro-business/capital policies of the government has become a Maoist. Anyone who empathises with the oppressed and discriminated, anyone who has given his/her time apart from their personal life for the betterment of the greater common good, for the cause of the poorest of the poor, the salt of the earth cannot be but a Maoist a la the perception of the police and an obliging, sensation driven media.

In such a scenario when prisons are being crowded with more and more people clamouring for their rights, with the State constantly in search of a submissive, naive subject as its people, the spirit of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru becomes alive, as the long and arduous struggle to do away with all kinds of prisons that has become fetters to the overall development of humanity cannot be wished away.

CRPP calls upon all freedom loving people of the subcontinent to come forward to be part of the legacy of the martyrdom of our beloved freedom fighters and their cherished goals for a just and equitable society. The struggle to release all political prisoners and to do away with all kinds of draconian laws and to put an end to all forms exploitative and oppressive violence of the State in the form of capital punishment and other extra-judicial forms of killings are inseparable from the cherished dreams of the Great Martyrs.

In Solidarity,
Amit Bhattacharyya

 

Give Maoists political prisoner status as stated by Calcutta High Court


March 22, Kolkata– “The state government must immediately withdraw the petition challenging the Calcutta High Court’s decision. Political prisoner status is a democratic right and the government cannot take away this right,” said Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) secretary Dhiral Sengupta.

The Calcutta High Court August 2012 had granted political prisoner status to seven Maoists including Gaur Narayan Chakraborty and tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of Maoist backed Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities.

The state government subsequently filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court challenging the order. The apex court stayed the order.

The APDR also urged the Mamata Banerjee government in the state not to amend the law granting political prisoner status.

“The government should desist from lowering the dignity of the state assembly by trying to amend a law and deny a basic democratic right of people who fight for political justice. This government is behaving like the British rulers,” added Sengupta.

Following the Calcutta High Court order, the union home ministry had written to the state government seeking an amendment in the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992, to prevent Maoists and other militants from getting status of political prisoners.

IANS

#Chhattisgarh- Maoists threaten Judges in Bastar


These pamphlets released by the CPI (Maoists) calls for the celebration of adhikar saptah (rights week) for all political prisoners from 23 to 29 March

March 21, 2013

The pamphlet by CPI Maoists that was confiscated by the police in Bastar.

For the first time in three decades, the judiciary has been targeted by the Maoists in Bastar. The Maoists have been issuing warnings to politicians and the police but this time they have warned the judges. Mayank Srivastava, SP Bastar, tells TEHELKA that pamphlets with the warnings were found on the passenger train running from Kurandul toVishakhapatnam. On Wednesday morning some pamphlets were also found along the railway tracks at Bodenar village, between Kaklur and Kavadgaon railway stations, under the Kodenar police station, Bastar. These pamphlets were seen by the keyman while inspecting the tracks in the morning, he later reported this at the railway station. The pamphlets were confiscated by the RPF and given to the police. Four pamphlets were also stuck inside the train. These pamphlets released by the CPI (Maoists) calls for the celebration of adhikar saptah (rights week) for all political prisoners from 23 to 29 March. The pamphlets said that the people’s court was warning the anti people judges. The Maoists in jails should be declared as political prisoners and released unconditionally. It warned that adivasis and revolutionaries should not be given harsh punishments on the basis of false and police testimony. It also warned the jail authorities from mistreating the prisoners.

 

Political prisoners observe Hunger strike on 23rd March Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day for ABOLISHMENT OF #Deathpenalty


PRESS RELEASE,  NAGPUR , MARCH 21, 2013

Numerous countries across the world have abolished the death sentence as a form of punishment. However India, claimed repeatedly by its rulers to be a democratic country still retains this inhuman practice and the bloody eye-for-an-eye code of justice. Capital punishment is unacceptable with democratic principles and hence we believe that it should be abolished in India. With this demand about forty political prisoners of the Nagpur Central prison, including ten women will observe a one day token Hunger strike on 23rd March 2013.

Bhagat Singh, Sukhdeo and Rajguru, who fought against British Imperialism and underwent a prolonged struggle against the colonial prison administration for recognition of their political prisoner status were hanged to death by the British. As part of this struggle, political prisoners across the country observe the day of their martyrdom, 23rd March each year as ‘Political Prisoners Day’.

On this occasion, the government never fails to sponsor full page advertisements in the daily papers, whilst killing his thoughts and opinions. The government colluding with Imperialism and making numerous agreements for the sale of the nation, is like the British brutally crushing those who resist- the revolutionaries, democrats and patriots. Those who believe in freedom, equality and liberty are branded as anti-nationals and some are sentenced to death by hanging to make an example.

Through this press note, we call that all those imprisoned for their rights, justice, freedom, equality and liberty be recognized as political prisoners and be unconditionally released.

Yours faithfully,

Undertrial Bhimrao Bhovate

Date: 21st March 2013

Place: Nagpur Prison.

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Eleven tribal women political prisoners observe hunger strike #protest


IN ORDER THAT THE DEAF GOVERNMENT HEAR, 11 TRIBAL WOMEN PRISONERS OBSERVE A DAY OF HUNGER STIKE!*

 

On 13th December 2012, eleven tribal women political prisoners will be observing a one day hunger strike for the implementation of various demands including the central demand that the Gadchiroli district prison be opened despite over two years since its completed construction.

The series of atrocities by the Maharashtra government goes unabated, without any rectification despite numerous democratic protests and hunger stikes. Hence, during the winter session of the State legislative at Nagpur we are observing a one day long hunger strike for the deaf government to hear.

In the press note issued by the tribal women political prisoners they have made their position clear. It has been over two years since the construction of the Gadchiroli district prison and news of its opening within a few months has been published in the newspapers. The post of Guardian Minister of our Gadchiroli district is with Hon’ble Shri. R. R. Patil and affairs related to the prison are also handled by his (home) departed. Nevertheless there has been a failure to start functioning of the Gadchiroli prison despite over two years having lapsed. The newspapers have also carried news that materials worth almost Rs. 40 lacs have been stolen from the premises. If not the government, this question is of great value for us because by imprisoning us at Nagpur and other prisons our relations with our families and lawyers have been totally cut off. Besides, our constitutional right to be produced before the court during trial has been violated since the last 23 months causing us severe mental disturbance. We urge our guardian minister R. R. Patil to consider this grave situation and declare the Gadchiroli prison be opened within a fixed time.

On 1st April 2012, while replying to a question raised by Shobhatai Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party, State Home minister R. R. Patil informed the Legislative Council that the government has decided to investigate the cases of tribal youth imprisoned at the Nagpur prison. However it has been over a year and a half without any action in this regard. It would mean that the home minister made this empty promise only to silence the opposition. The arrests of innocents, like us has begun under his patronage ever since he has become the gadchiroli district guardian minister. On one hand, he has declared that he will not tolerate injustice on innocents to gather the sympathy of tribals and on the other; a cruel repression is being unleashed against the tribals. We call upon him to end this mockery and declare in this legislative session whether a commission for investigation has been appointed as promised.

Likewise since January 2011, the production of the Gadchiroli undertrials before the session’s court has come to a complete halt. There had been an attempt to conduct trials through video conferencing. However due to regular technical problems it never functioned smoothly. And now since March 2012, this mechanism too has come to an end. It is the total violation of the constitutional right of an undertrial not to be produced before the trial court. Our demands are not excessive. We merely demand that the government fulfill its minimum obligations of producing us before the court and that our endless trials be conducted speedily. The Union minister Jairam Ramesh has declared the central government has decided to conduct trials of tribals by setting up fast track courts. R. R. Patil too caught to and upheld this declaration. However rather than making new declarations the Maharashtra government ought to try to ensure the regular and speedy functioning of existing courts, so as to clear obstacles of us approaching them.

The practice of re-arresting persons acquitted after a prolonged legal battle has become the rule. The police do not show the intelligence to arrest the person in a new case when in prison or when in police custody. However after the person is acquitted and released, the police have the ‘wisdom’ to re-arrest the person at the gate. The police by dutifully doing this to inflate the number of arrests without any consideration of the violations of the prisoners human rights. This practice of re-arrest is shameful for a ‘democratic’ government. Hence we call upon the home minister to immediately put and end to this practice of re-arrest.

The home minister very well knows that all the charges leveled on us are false. Hence the government has employed a policy to conduct trials at snails pace, totally end the production of undertrials in court and the practice of re-arrest- all steps undertaken to make us rot in prison for maximum possible time. To keep illiterate and poor tribal youth away from justice and to see to it that they only get delayed justice is a violation of our constitutionally guaranteed human rights. Hence we take this opportunity to humbly appeal to all democratic and justice loving people and the peoples’ representatives to raise their voices in our support.

Yours faithfully,

Undertrial prisoners,

Saguna Pungati (Raji Reddy)- sd/-

Sunanda Bhovate- sd/-

Date: 8.12.12

Place: Nagpur Central Prison, Nagpur.

 

* This is a rough translation of the press note sent by the prisoners in marathi.

 

Calcutta High court grants ‘political prisoner’ status, to seven members of PUDR


 

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

                                                7TH November 2012

 

Calcutta High Court Judgement and Political Prisoners

The West Bengal High Court judgement of August 2012 granting ‘political prisoner’ status to seven members of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) clarifies and reinforces the provision of law as stipulated in West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 and the definition  of political prisoner therein.

PUDR welcomes the judgement to the extent that it brushes aside the mystique woven by lower courts in denying the status of political prisoner to PCPA members on insubstantial grounds despite the law being vivid and clear on it. Section 24 of the West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 takes a broad and encompassing view of what constitutes a political offence. It includes all political and democratic movement that crusades to further social and economic justice without any personal greed or motives and despite the ideological persuasion and means or orientation towards established legal order to be political movement. Consequently, any one detained for being associated with these movements is to be political prisoner. The High Court judgement therefore brings forth the irony and contradictions of the justice delivery mechanisms in India.

The West Bengal High Court Judgement however has its own perils. The high court in its judgement refrained from striking down the category of political prisoner because the said category was not challenged on valid grounds in the legal matter before its disposal. The court found the category of political prisoner to be discriminatory and reinforcing inequality. It held that basic minimum facilities that are stipulated for the political prisoners under West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 shall be moderated and made accessible to all prisoners. In this concern PUDR would also like to draw attention on the colonial practice of discriminations in Indian jails, entirely based on class and various categorisations of prisoners.   While the notion of equality is no doubt welcoming, HC judgment is conspicuously silent on upholding of prevalent structured inequality in Indian Jails. Secondly it would be quite disingenuous to reduce the struggle for the status of political prisoner to the notion of equal access to facilities inside prison.  Contestations over status of a political prisoner or category of ‘political offence and offenders’ goes beyond prison entitlements. It is about defining the domain of ‘legitimate’ politics and diverse politics of dissent and resistance being constitutive of such domain.

The High Court Judgement in totality circumvents what it asserts in the first instance. It  subverts the broader understanding political offence as defined in the West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992  by proposing trampling of boundaries between ‘political’ and ‘routine’/ non political offence.  Following this judgement the Ministry of Home Affair, Government of India swiftly moved to direct the West Bengal Government to either  consider an amendment of the West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 or to appeal against the high court judgment in order to prohibit the conferment of the status of political prisoners to those who question and revolt against the state. Paradoxical it may seem but overall picture around West Bengal High Court Judgement and the MHA directive represents a continuum of subverting a law- (West Bengal Correctional Service Act) 1992- with democratic potential. More so it aims at redefining the contours of the political by ironing out the politics of resistance and dissent.

 

PUDR demands:

1.      That the provision of West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 be adhered to and implemented in right spirit rather than cultivating pretext for its subversion.

2.      That overall living conditions inside prison be made just and humane and rights of prisoners be upheld rather than simply juxtaposing and inducing unsubstantiated contradiction with privileges of political prisoners.

3.      Release all political prisoners and initiate dialogue with them to comprehend and redress the fundamental causes of political unrest.

 

 

Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan

(Secretaries)

 

 

 

Condemn Strongly the Brutal Assault of Masarat Alam and Mushtaq ul Islam in the Jail in Udhampur!


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025      Contact: thearrested1@gmail.com

Date: 01/10/2012

The Conditions of Prisons in the region of Jammu are Abysmal and Inhuman especially for Kashmiri Muslim Prisoners!

 

The CRPP strongly condemns the murderous assault on Masarat Alam and Mushtaq ul Islam in the prison in Udhampur. Such acts of brutality by jail authorities on political prisoners who have been put behind bars for their uncompromising political views is an age old strategy that was adopted by the British colonialists on the freedom fighters of the Indian subcontinent. Today the same strategy is being implemented much more brutally by India on Kashmiri Muslims who have been put behind bars for their political aspirations of Azadi! These kinds of brutalities and specific targeting of the political prisoners should be condemned by every freedom loving citizen of the subcontinent.

It should be noted that India is also a signatory of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights which recognises the rights and status of the political prisoner. But when it comes to dealing with political prisoners India has a track record of being the worst lawless state. The living experiences of Kashmiri Muslims who have been specifically targeted through various draconian laws and lodged in different prisons in the subcontinent let alone undisclosed torture centres in Jammu & Kashmir bear testimony to these acts of impunity of the Indian state.

Today in the Indian subcontinent and especially in Jammu & Kashmir, prisons have become torture centres where the undertrials detained under the notorious PSA, AFSPA, or UAPA have become easy targets of brutalisation. The jails in the region of Jammu have attained the notoriety of being torture centres as is termed by many of the relatives of the political prisoners of the region. The assault on Masarat Alam and Mushtaq is a grim reminder of the continuing policy of brutalisation of the prisoners in the jails of Jammu. It should be noted that the Srinagar Bar Association and the various people’s leaders of Jammu & Kashmir have time again pointed out this brutal treatment of the prisoners in the jails of Jammu. The prison conditions in the jails of Jammu are the worst.

The prisoners are paraded naked, beaten to pulp, made to do things which are against their religious beliefs. Further they are provided with insufficient food and are made to eat in the lawns in the scorching sun at a time in Jammu when the temperatures were around 45 degrees. These reports were abuzz in the Srinagar press since July 2012. It should be noted that the Indian state is violating its own law when it is shifting a political prisoner from the prison nearer to his/her residence. Most of the political prisoners in the jails of Jammu are from the Kashmir valley and have been shifted to the region under the pretext of overcrowding of the prisons in the latter. Notwithstanding the fact that it violates the Jail Manual, an undertrial or detainee is made to cut grass, clean toilets and utensils. There have been orders from the courts for various committees appointed since 1994 to visit the prisons and take stock of the situation by talking to the inmates. But seldom are there any such visits or reports. There is hardly any media attention on such acts of impunity of the Indian state in Jammu & Kashmir except the regular negative profiling of Kashmiri Muslims. Only the relentless vigilant protests of the people of Jammu & Kashmir have ensured that the media and the powers that be forced to take up the issue.

CRPP would call upon all democratic and freedom loving sections in the subcontinent to unitedly condemn and expose this total disregard of the Indian state for the genuine democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and thereby the permanent reign of the terror of impunity enforced on their everyday life. We unequivocally demand that the Indian government release unconditionally all such people incarcerated for their political beliefs in the valley as well as other jails in the Jammu region immediately. We also demand that such people be granted the status of political prisoner pending their release and put an end to the reign of terror through the draconian instruments of PSA, UAPA and AFSPA which have made the state impervious to all kinds of civility, propriety and respect for the life of the common people in Jammu & Kashmir. All such officials who indulge in and abet the torture and mistreatment of the political prisoners in Jammu & Kashmir should be immediately brought to book!

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani

Working President

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations