The Pereira and the Ferreira: A tale of two Bandra boys


G Sampath  | Saturday, January 21, 2012

One guy killed seven people and spent one month in jail. Another killed nobody and spent 56 months in jail. As they say, we are all equal before the law, aren’t we.

The double standards of the Indian state — mind-boggling benevolence in one case, calculated viciousness in another — are nowhere more apparent than in the case of two Bandra boys, one a Pereira, the other a Ferreira, both of whom were in the news earlier this month. The contrasting ways in which the two were treated by our law enforcement machinery is a parable that says much about the kind of society we’ve become.

Allister Pereira, 25, is the son of a rich businessman. On November 12, 2006, driving under the influence of alcohol, he ran over 15 labourers sleeping on the pavement on Carter Road, killing seven. By any yardstick, this was an open-and-shut case of a man killing seven people.

But in the five-and-a-half years from November 2006 to January 2012, Pereira spent exactly one month in jail. In April 2007, a sessions court convicted him, awarding him six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs5 lakh. It’s not clear what verdict Pereira was expecting, but he chose to challen ge this judgment in the Bombay High Court. The high court upheld the conviction, but extended his sentence to three years. It also lambasted the manner in which the Mumbai police went about investigating the crime, and criticised its tardiness in submitting the report. We can’t say for sure why the Mumbai police was lacklustre in its investigation; we can’t say why the cops were so slow in filing their report; and we can’t say why the sessions court handed out a sentence that was found to be too lenient by the higher court; but the reasons are not difficult to guess.

Pereira, who was out on bail, appealed to the Supreme Court. This January, the apex court upheld his sentence of three years, and cancelled his bail bond. Pereira surrendered, and finally, more than five years after his crime, it looks like he will serve out his punishment.

Cut to Arun Ferreira, a 40-year-old social worker. Ferreira was picked up by the police in Nagpur on May 8, 2007. He was charged with conspiracy to plant bombs, and over the years, slapped with nearly a dozen cases, ranging from murder, to attacking the police, to burning a railway engine. In September 2011, he was acquitted of all the charges.  But the moment he stepped out of the jail, he was illegally re-arrested by cops in plain clothes, and charged in two more cases. He again rotted in jail till January, when, after the police failed to produce a shred of evidence against him for any of the charges — he was acquitted on 10 of the 11 cases and given bail on one — he was allowed to go home. In all, from May 2007 to January 2012, Ferreira was made to spend four years and eight months in jail even though there was no evidence of him having committed a single crime.

The contrast with Pereira couldn’t be starker. Why would the state let a spoilt brat who killed seven people, live in freedom for five years, and in another case, imprison for almost five years, on false charges, a man who has been working for the welfare of the most marginalised of Indians — the poor, the working class, the Dalits?

So what exactly was Ferreira’s crime, which, in the eyes of the state, merited a far more stringent prosecution than Pereira’s? Well, the police believe him to be a Naxal sympathiser. Yet strangely enough, they cannot put him in jail for being a Naxal sympathiser. Why not? This may come as news to many people, but according to the Constitution of India, a citizen has the right to believe in any ideology, and believing in Naxalism or Maoism is no crime, so long as he or she does not indulge in violence or break any law.

Ferreira, as a matter of fact, is a self-proclaimed Naxal sympathiser, but there is no evidence linking him to any act of Naxal violence. Nevertheless, his work and his ideology — especially the idea of rights and entitlements that he was busy transmitting to the downtrodden — was not palatable to those who control the levers of power in this country. What if more and more of the poor and marginalised start fighting for their rights — as has been happening in Jaitapur, in Kudankulam, in Kalinga Nagar, in Manesar, and in the mineral belt stretching from Chhattisgarh to Bihar to Orissa?

Well, then Indian democracy might actually start functioning a little, and for the corporate-funded political class that plays musical chairs in New Delhi every five years, that’s a scary proposition. Hence the importance of keeping the Ferreiras in jail. According to media reports, the number of political prisoners in Maharashtra has gone up from 40 in October 2010, to 125 in December 2011. And as the global economy worsens, putting greater pressure on third world natural resources and entitlements of the poor, the crackdown on rights-oriented activists (as opposed to the welfare-oriented ‘CSR activists’ whom big business and the state love) is only set to get worse. As of today, it’s the Pereiras who call the shots in India, and they don’t want any Ferreiras running wild in the countryside.

Jail gate farce with alleged Naxals


Soumittra S Bose, TNN Jan 16,

Every time a so-called Naxalite is granted bail and is expected to walk out of central jail, Shakespeare famous line ‘All the world’s a stage‘ from his As You Like It‘ comes to mind. With each interpreting the bail order the way they like it, all players gear up for the inevitable drama staged outside the gate of jail. It usually ends with the alleged Naxalite being arrested almost as soon as he is released. A lawyer representing the rebel said that around 31 people have been part of this arrest-bail-re-arrest drama during the last six months.

The media too remain alert to catch the action live retaining all the juices of a tight-script drama. With the lawyers and police locked in a tug-of-war over the released Naxalite, the media also remain on toes to catch every slightest bit of the commotion until the cops zoom out in some rickety government vehicle with their ‘prize catch’.ir ‘prize catch’.

It was expected to be same with the alleged Naxal activist Arun Ferreira’s when he was released earlier this month after the bail formalities. The speculation of his getting arrested again at the jail gate like in September 2011 was rising among his lawyers and media. The over-zealous media on the day of Ferreira’s release nearly made two inconsequential prison inmates heroes as they came out mistaking them for the Mumbai man. The error was realized only when the cops started giggling aloud.

The undertrials, who were escorted away by the cops for different reason, had a surprised look on their face as more than a dozen cameramen ran towards them clicking their pictures and chasing the cops’ jeep. A couple of media men left the place in a jiffy to become first to break the news of release.

When Ferreira himself walked out, he looked around cautiously and was unable to believe there was none to whisk him away again. Many attribute to this anti-climactic end to a petition filed before the high court by his lawyers just a day before the release. A week later, however, cops were up to their old trick as they picked up three so-called Naxalites outside Nagpur central jail as soon as they walked out. In this case there was no media present to highlight the drama nor a petition had been filed for the trio to ensure their safe passage home. These so-called rebels were not a ‘celebrity’ like Ferreira. After being released from jail on bail, it is learnt they landed in the office superintendent of police, Gondia.

In 2007 too, dramas outside central jail revolving around the release of Mallesh Kusumma, alias Vikram, would repeat every six months as the period for preventive arrests would get over and security agencies, desperate to keep him in custody, would pick him up again. Now it is learnt that Mallesh is a family man settled in Hyderabad. His petition before the high court protesting his arrest and re-arrest from jail gate has also reached a final stage. “After Monicagate and watergate, we now have jailgate scandals which is a mockery of bail provisions,” said an angry Naxal sympathizer.

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