Mednipur Central Jail, West Bengal: 150 Political Prisoners Start Indefinite Hunger Strike, Issue Sweeping Demands

COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS, New Delhi

Press Release, December 10, 2010

On the Occasion of International Human Rights Day—

In Solidarity with the Political Prisoners in Medinipur Central Jail, West Bengal, India who have started their Indefinite Hunger Strike on 10th December!

Nearly 150 political prisoners—mostly under trial and incarcerated in the state of West Bengal which the Indian government calls ‘Correctional Home’—will start hunger strike from 10th December 2010 on Human Rights Day for an indefinite period, true to the long tradition of hunger strikes organized by political prisoners in Medinipur, as also other jails of West Bengal and outside in near and distant past.

Convicts working at Midinapore Central Jail, where countless freedom fighters were martyred in struggle against British colonialist rule, and where hundreds of opponents of the oppressive Indian regime are held as political prisoners today

The prisoners include those arrested on the charge of having Maoist links, or becoming members of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) that spearheaded the Lalgarh (Jangalmahal) movement in the state of West Bengal from November 2008, or common villagers standing by the cause.

Many of these prisoners have been languishing in jail for years together in abysmal conditions virtually without trial. Some other prisoners arrested in Maoist connections will also join the hunger strike in Krishnagar Jail, Nadia, Alipur Central Jail and Presidency Jail in Kolkata. Among the prisoners spearheading the hunger strike are Chhatradhar Mahato [leader of the PCAPA until his arrest-ed], Sukhshanti Baskey, Prasun Chatterjee and Raja Sarkhel in Medinipur Central Jail, Chandi Sarkar, Sabyasachi Goswami, Zakir Hosen and Pradip Chatterjee in Krishnagar Jail, Gour Chakrabarti in Presidency Jail and Telugu Dipak in Alipur Central Jail.

Ever since its inception, it has been a constant demand of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners [CRPP] for the unconditional release of all political prisoners in the Indian Subcontinent. It has in this regard also stressed the need to completely do away with all draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA) and all similar acts meant to suppress and stifle political dissent among the most oppressed and exploited people of the subcontinent.

The present call for an indefinite hunger strike by the political prisoners in various prisons in the state of West Bengal in India is growing sign of the worsening conditions in prisons all over the subcontinent. It once again is a call to all democratic minded and freedom loving people of the subcontinent and the world at large to take note of the nature of incarceration of political dissent and the cold manipulation of ensuring the withering away of political dissent within the four walls of the prison through innumerable cases which will take several lives to finish, as well as inhuman conditions of stay which negate all norms of the declared jail manual.

The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) expresses wholehearted support to the striking prisoners and urges all democratic forces throughout India and other parts of the world to raise their voice in support of their just demands.

On this occasion of International Human Rights Day, the CRPP extends its solidarity to all such voices–which have been forcefully silenced through incarceration and other oppressive and exploitative method–for their struggle to be heard and also their fundamental right to freedom of expression and the inalienable right to dignified existence.

The demands placed by the political prisoners in various prisons in the state of West Bengal in India before the authorities are as follows:

  1. The joint forces should be withdrawn and ‘Operation Green-hunt’ stopped immediately and the government should sit for a dialogue with the PCAPA without delay.
  2. Section 144 should be immediately withdrawn, and there should be unrestricted entry of all newspersons, intellectuals and other people in the Jungle Mahal area.
  3. Legal proceedings should be initiated against the criminal gangs of the CPI (Marxist) known as the hermads.
  4. Judicial enquiry should be initiated for the murder of all leaders, members and supporters of the People’s Committee including Lalmohan Tudu, Sidhu  and Umakanto Mahato, and offenders should be brought to book.
  5. The cooked up charges against all the prisoners incarcerated in the jails of West Bengal on political grounds, including those arrested from Jungle Mahal [in West Bengal] should be withdrawn and the prisoners released unconditionally.
  6. Repeal all draconian acts including the UAPA and the AFSPA.
  7. Prisoners imprisoned on political grounds should be given the status of political prisoners and the government should have to bear the cost of maintaining their families.
  8. Prisoners should be given opportunity to meet the members of their families and receive necessary articles from them in Medinipur court.
  9. After arrest, no participant in a movement should be made to “disappear” illegally. Everyone should be produced in court within 24 hours.
  10. Nobody should be ‘shown arrested’ by tagging in one false case after another.
  11. Judicial enquiry should be initiated in all cases of rape including those in Sonamukhi and the offenders brought to book.
  12. Old men and women in the Jungle Mahal should be given adequate old-age pension and widows given widow-pension, and all in this connection should be paid off immediately.
  13. All surplus grain kept in the FCI go-downs should be immediately distributed among the poor people of Jungle Mahal, and not to be allowed to either rot or be burnt.
  14. Stop biased investigation into the Jnaneswari Express sabotage and initiate neutral investigation; a neutral investigation team should be formed with people from cross-sections of society and actual culprits should be punished.
  15. Indian army in Kashmir should be immediately withdrawn. The hopes and aspirations of the people of the land should be honoured.
  16. Persons involved in the destruction of Babri Masjid and subsequent riots should be given exemplary punishment.
  17. Prisoners confined in the cells should be allowed to meet other prisoners. The illegal system that segregates one prisoner from another should be immediately stopped.
  18. Those among the life-convict prisoners who have already passed 14 years of incarceration should be set free immediately.
  19. Telephone service should be introduced inside jails and every prisoner be allowed to avail of this opportunity.
  20. Instead of every prisoner being forced to have his beard cut with one common razor, each prisoner should be allowed to have a separate arrangement of his own.
  21. Arrangement should be made for the supply of water inside the cells for 24 hours and the inhuman custom of carrying water drums over shoulders should be stopped immediately.
  22. Arrangement should be made for political prisoners to take political classes inside prisons. No political literature can be seized by the jail authority.
  23. Political prisoners should be allowed to contact media persons outside and they should be allowed the right to have their political writings published in different newspapers.
  24. Intellectuals coming to meet political prisoners should be allowed to have table interview with them.
  25. The newly-proposed system of payment of daily wage@ Rs.100.00 to convicts should be implemented immediately; wages should not be kept due.
  26. Prisoners seeking a copy each of West Bengal Correctional Services Act and the Jail Code should be provided one copy each.
  27. Canteens should be introduced inside Medinipur Jail.
  28. Political prisoners should be provided with all the daily newspapers at government expense.
  29. Proper infrastructure for treatment in Medinipur Jail Hospital should be made and necessary machines installed.

In Solidarity,

Gurusharan Singh                                       Amit Bhattacharyya                                                  SAR Geelani

President                                                    Secretary General                                                      Working President

Rona Wilson

Secretary Public Relations

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