WSS Statement- condemning assault on women undertrials in Mumbai

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), condemns the assault on three women under-trials, Angela Sontakey, 42, Sushma Ramteke, 22, and Jyoti Chorghe,19, in the Mumbai District Women’s Prison in Byculla.

On March 31 they witnessed an assault upon some other inmates by the prison staff. When they tried to intervene, they too were attacked by the staff. The jail authorities responded to their subsequent demand for an apology by sending them into solitary confinement, without any medical assistance before or after the confinement.

In addition to the assault, the women have complained that there have been attempts to block their access to books, and to classes held in the prison by non-government groups. Their books that included Mahatma Gandhi‘s biography and a pamphlet on prison rights have been confiscated, in complete violation of their basic rights as under-trials. They claim that they are being targeted as they have consistently raised their voice against practices of corruption rampant in the jail, and on various problems faced by the prisoners including access to nutritional food. They have also referred to an atmosphere of fear and terror of jail authorities among the prisoners. A complaint has been filed by their lawyers demanding action against the staff responsible for the assault, and to look into their demand for wholesome food for all prisoners. 


We at WSS believe that issues of custodial treatment are of the utmost importance and that prison authorities must not abuse the power they have over prisoners.


Angela Sontakey, Sushma Ramteke, and Jyoti Chorghe completed one year in jail on May 16th. In response to their consistent agitation for the rights of the inmates of the Women’s Prison we at WSS demand


  • ·        A thorough investigation, and suitable punishment of those found guilty, in the incidents of assault upon all the women prisoners, including  Angela Sontakey, Sushma Ramteke, and Jyoti Chorghe, housed in the Mumbai District  Women’s Prison in Byculla.


  • ·        An investigation of the issues raised by these women such as the routine corruption in prison administration as well as the demands of bribes for access to resources and medical treatment.


  • ·        Provision of healthy, hygienic and nutritious food, apart from other basic amenities, to all women prisoners, as stipulated by law.


  • ·        Immediate halt to the use of ‘Solitary confinement’ – a provision in the jail manual meant to be used to punish or control errant prisoners – as a method of punishing under-trials or prisoners demanding their basic and legitimate rights.

Contact email id: 


Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non-funded effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women by any perpetrator (s).

Three Women Prisoners assaulted in Mumbai Jail for raising issues

‘Published: Monday, Apr 23, 2012, 8:30 IST

By Dilnaz Boga | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Three suspected women Maoists sympathisers lodged in Mumbai District Women’s Prison in Byculla have alleged that the jail authorities had assaulted them for highlighting the prison’s problems. They have filed a complaint in the sessions court at Sewri.

Angela Sontakey, 42, Sushma Ramteke, 22, and Jyoti Chorghe, 19, were arrested by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in April last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The three have pleaded for a thorough investigation into the assault incident of April 2. They want their statement to be recorded and the police register an FIR.

They have alleged that in a bid to alienate them the jail authorities directed the volunteers of the NGOs not to talk to them and they were denied admission to computer classes run by an NGO. The trio alleged that the authorities even confiscated Mahatma

Gandhi’s biography and a jail manual they had brought with them to share with other prisoners about prison rights.

On March 31, the trio saw some inmates being beaten by the authorities. When they tried to intervene, they were attacked by the jail employees, the complaint stated. The three were accused of instigating inmates. The inmates protested by refusing food and demanded an apology from the administration.

Two days later, Sontakey, Ramteke and Chorghe were sent to solitary confinement. “No complaint was registered before punishing us. No doctor came. No medical tests were done before the confinement and after,” the application said.

The trio then went on a hunger strike for six days. The complainants claim that they had been targeted by the authorities. “We had always raised our voice against the corrupt practices of the jail. Bribe is taken for giving requisition for your guards, for getting things, to go to JJ Hospital and for making false medical record.”

The three complained that the jail inmates are so “terrorised” by the jail’s Reform and Rehabilitation Centre that they fear to seek help. The other inmates approach them for writing applications and counselling. “This has alarmed the authorities as they feel that their importance is diminishing,” says the complaint.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should be not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones,” the complaint quotes from South African leader Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

IG Prisons Surender Kumar said, “There are three or four people from that group who have been creating trouble in the jail by demanding different things. We had complained about them to the judge. I’m not aware about the assault incident but I don’t think our officers would have resorted to such tactics.”

Letter by Maharashtra Prisoners going on Hunger Strike ( English Translation )

Today, 23rd March, day of hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukdev were hanged in jail by the British, is being observed by a day-long hunger strike by over 200 `political prisoners‘ in various jails in Maharashtra, including the Angela Sontakkey and four women prisoners in Byculla women’s jail and Sidharth Bhosale and Deepak Dengle of Kabir Kala Manch who are lodged at Arthur Road jail.

The English Translation of the letter- thanks to Neeta Kolhatkar 🙂

On ‘Shahid day’ commemorating Bhagat Singh, Political prisoners to go on fast in jails

Commemorating the martyrs day of Shahid-e-azam Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev & Rajguru, political prisoner in Nagpur jail have gone on fast since last night.
March 23 , The martyrs day is a important  day for all political prisoners.All the political prisoners have to be released without any conditions.and the system followed for all those political prisoners who have been granted bail, have been released by the courts, but are re-arrested at the gates of the prison, has to be stopped henceforth. These are our 2 demands that we want implemented and hence we are on a one-day token fast for it. 
Bhagat Singh & his aides were responsible in helping to chase away the British Colonial rule and helped to establish the state of the deprived, labourers. Bhagat Singh and his supporters put up and inspiring fight for this mission. Forget fulfilling Bhagat Singh’s dream, that remotely isn’t possible. However those milking the people in the name of Bhagat singh are political leaders who have established a rule of dalals, traders, businessmen, mafia and goondas. Earlier we had one East India company ruling over us, today there are innumerable foreign MNCs who are ruling our country invisibly, from behind the curtains. Our country is truly not free in the real sense. And it is very imp to free the country once more & give freedom in its true sense.
Our call to fast is also a way to remind the public of the true spirit of Bhagat Singh’s fight for freedom. We have been inspired to take his message to the people of India & the youth regarding Bhagat Singh’s true legacy & we believe the current leaders, rulers are anti-nationals. As a result all the activists, workers and supporters of Bhagat Singh have been dumped in various jails across the state. Because we are fighting for the true freedom of this country, taking inspiration from Bhagat Singh, we are political rebels, we are ideological prisoners, but we are NOT criminals. therefor the political prisoners have to be released without any condition and this is our main reason to sit on a fast today. We will continue to keep alive the spirit & memories of Shahid Bhagat Singh, is the message that a political prisoner has circulated in a release.
date – 21-3-2012
venue – Nagpur Madhyvarti jail, Nagpur
1. Shridhar Shrinivasan
2. Bhimrao Bhopte

Read their letter in Marathi sent from the jail

A film with a difference – Priyanka Borpujari

28, Januray 2012, The Hindu

It took 14 years to make the 200-minute-long documentary “Jai Bhim Comrade” on Dalits. Director Anand Patwardhan explains why.

On January 9, in the bylanes of Byculla‘s BIT Chawl, a documentary was premiered after sundown. A huge white screen ensured that people from the three-storeyed buildings nearby could also view the film. For over three hours Anand Patwardhan’s “Jai Bhim Comrade” took us on a musical-historical journey. Beginning with the rousing voice of Vilas Ghogre, we move quickly to the police killings in Ramabai Nagar in 1997. Suddenly, the camera takes us inside Ghogre’s home, where he scribbled his last words before committing suicide on the fifth day after the police firing.

Why did the film take 14 years to make? “I wanted to continue filming till all the false cases against the people in the colony were removed, or until the police officers who had ordered the firing were sent to jail,” explains Patwardhan. The Ramabai Nagar case took its own natural course. Another thread was exploring the tension between caste and class. Patwardhan says, “Vilas was a Dalit who became a Marxist, but then chose to reassert his Dalit identity, by tying a blue scarf as he hung himself. I wanted to understand this seeming clash of identities. As Vilas was no more, I began filming others from his musical tradition. A few were Leftists like Vilas, others celebrated Dr. Ambedkar‘s life and message. I wanted to do justice to this whole spectrum.”

The spectrum is broad indeed — from a proud song describing the Dalit who became a barrister, to those that recount the travails of migrant workers to the city; from lullabies based on the teachings of the Buddha, to naughty qawaalis that celebrated sexuality equally by men and women. Almost each song is juxtaposed with evocative visuals — claustrophobic slum-dwelling illustrated by a chicken coop; “My barrister husband is coming home” juxtaposed with visuals of men sweeping the streets. As Patwardhan points out, this is not an ethnographic film. “It is a record of the people and events I encountered. Many were not recognised as singers. Saraswati Bansode was a housewife. Shanta Bai Gadpaile’s husband was a poet and she remembers his songs. The tradition is so strong that ordinary people just sang.”

Many songs in the film narrate the game politicians have played with Dalits. In one instance, at an Ambedkar Jayanti function, small boys are dancing to the tune of “In the Mumbai… we are the Bhai..” from Bollywood‘s “Shootout At Lokhandwala”. Somehow the lyrics fit — Dalits have been used by the underworld, as well as political parties.


Read More here


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