Do not let political prisoners to die in jail; Political-Social-Cultural Activists

In the context of the Corona Pandemic, many social,political and cultural activists including Arundhathi Roy and Meena Kandasamy has asked, in a statement to release all political prisoners in the country…

Free Political Prisoners

The Covid19 outbreak in the country is fast becoming a public health hazard forcing the government to declare a 21-day nationwide lockdown. This public health concern is alsoan occasion to look at the overcrowded prisons in the country. According to India Justice Report (2019) the national average of occupancy in prisons is 114 percent of its capacity. The average only tells part of the story as the condition varies from state to state. The outbreak of an pandemic such as Covid19 will have disastrous impact in a closed environment such as a prison even in normal conditions. Overcrowding will exacerbate the situation beyond control and that calls for immediate attention of the governments concerned. The India Justice Report also stated that over 67 percent of prisoners in the country belong to the category of under-trial prisoners, meaning people in custody awaiting ‘investigation, inquiry or trial’.

Realising the gravity of the situation the Honourable Supreme Court had directed the state governments to consider granting bail to remand prisoners ,accused of committing crimes punishable with a maximum of seven years imprisonment. The apex court also directed the state governments to form a high power committee to handle this matter. The court suggested the committee to examine the possibility of releasing convicted prisoners and other remand prisoners on parole in view of the health hazard. We call upon the Union and State Governments to take the directive of the Honourable Supreme Court in letter and spirit and initiate steps to avoid a  humanitarian crisis in the prisons. We would like to draw the attention of all the concerned authorities to the examples seen across the world where prisoners, including political prisoners, have been released in view of the present pandemic.

The prisons across the country are having a large number of political prisoners, undergoing incarceration as under-trials for many years or as convicts. Many of them have served more than five years in prison without any clarity on commencement of trial in these cases. Some of them are already suffering from many ailments.

To mention some cases, in the state of Maharashtra, former Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, poet Varavara Rao, Prof. Shoma Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj and several others ailing from ailments and old age are in jail. In Tamil Nadu, Padma and Veeramony, also suffering from various illnesses and old age, are in jail. A number of political prisoners in remand who have got bail in a number of cases are still imprisoned waiting for it in some other cases. For example, 65-year old Ibrahim, a chronic diabetic also suffering from cardiac problems, has been in jail in Kerala for more than five years. He is waiting for bail in only one case. Danish, another prisoner in the High Security Prison, Viyyur, Kerala, suffering from acute urinary infections, is still in jail despite gaining bail in all cases.

Many jails in the country are not having proper hospitals, adequate doctors or treatment facilities. The prisoners have no option other than the overstretched public health system outside in case of an emergency. Most often prisoners are not in a position to receive adequate medical care on time due to delays caused by various administrative formalities. The situation of prisoners would be far worse when the dreaded Covid19 outbreak is playing havoc with public health system in the country. The arrangements made in prisons to deal with the seriousness of situation remains unknown.

In the above circumstance we appeal to the Union and State Governments to initiate immediate steps to provide bail or parole to all political prisoners on a priority basis along with other prisoners.

Who signed the statement

1. Arundhathi Roy: Author
2. Prof. Gilbert Achcar: SOAS , University of London
3. Prof. Jairus Banaji: SOAS, University of London
4. Prof. Shakuntala Banaji: London School of Economics
5. Sujato Bhadra: Vice President, Committee for Release of Political Prisoners
6. Tarun Bharatiya: Documentary Film Maker
7. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy: SSS, JNU
8. Bernard D’Mello: Author and editor
9. S.K. Das: Architect
10. Vidyadhar Date: Journalist
11. Rutuja Deshmukh: film theorist, University of Pune
12. Xavier Dias: Rights Activist
13. Prof. Hargopal: Hyderabad
14. Rohini Hensman: Writer and Activist
15. Harsh Kapoor: Activist
16. Dr. Alessandra Mezzadri: SOAS, University of London
17. Prof. Dilip Menon: University of Witwatersrand
18. Sanchita Mukherjee: CRPP
19. Adv.V.Reghunath: Civil Liberties, Telangana
20. Prof: Pritam Singh: University of Oxford
21. Dr. Subir Sinha: SOAS, University of London
22. Sukla Sen: Author
23. Stan Swamy: Activist
24. Dr. Nalini Taneja: University of Delhi
25. Prof. Rashmi Varma: University of Warwick
26. Dr. Benjamin Zachariah: University of Heidelberg
27. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (EPW Editor)
28. Meena Kandasamy, Author
29. K Sachidanandan, Author
30. BRP Bhaskar
31. K. Murali ( Ajith)
32. A. Vasu
33. Dr J Devika
34. Dr T T Sreekumar
35. MN Ravunni
36. Dr KT Ram Mohan
37. Adv PA Pauran
38. KP Sethunath
39. Adv. S Madhusoodanan
40. Dr. Biju, Director
41. Mythri Prasad
42. Adv: Tushar Nirmal Sarathy
43. Adv: Shyna
44. Ranjana Padhi, Activist and Writer, Bhubaneswar
45. P. M. Raju, Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), Telangana
46. Dhiraj Sengupta (G.S., APDR )
47. Sanchita Mukherjee,General Secretary, CRPP, W.B
48. Adv.Ansar Indori NCHRO
49. Arup Sen, Professor
50. Buta Singh, activist, Punjab
51.Dr Vipan B Kumar Advocate High Cout of MUmbai
52. N Venugopal, journalist, Hyderabad
53. Raghavender Reddy. (Retd Journalist). Hyderabad.
54. Milind Champanerkar , Writer, Editor Pune
55. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist and Writer, New Delhi
56. Freny Manecksha, Independent journalist
57. K Ravi Chander President, Telangana Praja Front, Hyderabad.

Click Here