At the initiative of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), on 22nd July, three meetings¾ in front of Jadavpur Market adjacent to 8B bus stand, at the Block Development Office in Baruipur, South 24 Paraganas and at Ratan Pally in Santiniketan, Bolpur¾were held with the demand of unconditional release of all political prisoners. Different democratic and progressive student-youth-intellectuals had joined this meeting, expressed solidarity with the organisers and raised their voices demanding the release of political prisoners.
In the present situation of Corona pandemic, where infections are widespread, it has become imperative to fulfil the commitment towards democracy by taking up suitable programs even in the face of dilemmas about health concerns.
Cases of corona infected persons inside the prisons are on the rise. The vengeance of the state and the ruling political parties has put the lives of elderly and sick political prisoners, who are kept in prison over an extended period, in jeopardy. In particular, we shudder at the thought of political prisoner, Prof. G. N. Saibaba of Delhi University, who suffers from ninety-percent disabilities. Prof. Saibaba cannot move without the help of others.
In the Bhima Koregaon case, there is a black cloud of concern over the physical condition of the revolutionary Telugu poet Varvara Rao. Varvara Rao’s corona infection and the steps adopted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is currently being discussed across the country. It is learnt that Amitabh Bagchi, a political prisoner in Guwahati, Assam, has contracted corona. The news of political prisoners catching deadly corona-infection has made everyone concerned, especially their relatives and friends. There is no way to travel to these places as trains are not running at present. Because of the grave situation, people who were otherwise silent in the past, have also demandedthe release of political prisoners.
There are 71 political prisoners on trial in West Bengal jails. Of these, at least 7 are over 65 years of age. Besides, many are seriously ill today due to long imprisonment. Neurological and heart-related diseases have affected most of them, and there is no provision for the treatment of these diseases in jail. Even the jail authorities admit that there is no infrastructure in place to treat these diseases inside jail premise. The jail authorities are not sending the patients to outside hospitals for treatment on the pretext of corona pandemic. Most prisons do not have a doctor.So the convicts, without medical knowledge, have to take care of critically ill prisoners and even apply antibiotics and other life-saving drugs without a prescription. Sushant Sheel, a political prisoner on trial in Dumdum Central Jail, died recently due to medical negligence which is a kind of extrajudicial killing.
The vindictive attitude of Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s Department of Prisontowards political prisoners is clear from a recent incidence.A few days back, Kalpana Maiti had submitted a memorandum, signed by several inmates, to the prison authority demanding masks and hand-sanitisers for the inmates. It may be noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has mandated the compulsory to control the spread of coronavirus. However, the vindictive state government, as a punishment for this request, has shifted Kalpana Maiti from Dumdum Jail to Bankura District Jail located hundreds of miles away. We note with concern that Kalpana Maiti, due to ten long years of imprisonment, suffers from various physical symptoms, including spondylosis and thyroid.
Similarly, Paro Patel, a 45-year-old female political prisoner from Telangana, has lost her hearing due to medical problems. Now her vision is gradually getting weaker and weaker.
In such a dire situationthe demand for the release of political prisoners,raised in the meetings held in Jadavpur, Bolpur and Baruipur, is a necessary step for building a social movement to release political prisoners irrespective of their party affiliation. Most notably, many ordinary people have come to these meetings and demanded the unconditional release of all political prisoners.
It may be highlighted that seven days ago, the Dharmatala Metro Channel was filled with the enthusiastic participation of people at the call of struggling democratic personalities like Krishna Bandyopadhyay and poet Sabyasachi Deb. The participants had raised voice against the incarceration of Dr. Kafil Khan, the human face against politics of barbarism, revolutionaryTelugu poet Varvara Rao, Professor Soma Sen, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and all other political prisoners. The people had demanded an unconditional release of these noted social activists.
APDR gives a call to:
- Unite all democracy-loving citizen and forge a strong democratic movement
- Demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners.
- Repeal all draconian laws which are tools of state-sponsored terrorism, including UAPA, AFSPA,NSA.
- Put an end to NIA.
Bandi Mukti Committee (BMC)
In another development, members of Bandi Mukti Committee (BMC), Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP),Friends of Democracy(FOD) and Bhim Army (Kolkata), who had gathered on 24th July near the Esplanade Metro Station, Kolkata with the same demand of the release of political prisoners, were arrested by the New Market Police Station and a case (Case # 205, Dated 24/7/2020) has been filed. They have been charged under Section 143/341/188/283/IPC to be read along with Section 51B of the Disaster Management Act. As the last news came in, all of them have been released on bail.