India: 10,000 rally, demand release of political prisoners; prisoners on hunger strike

APDR demands release of political prisoners

Sujoy Khanra, TNN

JHARGRAM, June 24, 2011: The state government was yet to initiate measures to expedite the release of political prisoners, it was alleged at a rally organized by the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) at Midnapore town on Thursday. Several mass organizations, including the PCPA and the Santras, Durniti o Samrajyabadi Aggrassion Birodhi Ganatantrik Mancha – the banner under which PCPA leader Chhataradhar Mahato had contested the Assembly election – took part in the rally that was attended by more than 10,000 people.

Thousands converged at the rally from areas near to Jhargram, Lalgarh, Sankrail, Nayagram, Binpur and Gopiballavpur. PCP leader Monoj Mahato and Chhatradhar Mahato’s wife Niyati Mahato were among those who addressed the gathering. The meeting was delayed after joint forces intercepted vehicles ferrying people to the rally at Manikpara in Binpur. APDR state general secretary Debaprasad Ray Choudhury contacted SP Praveen Tripathi after which the vehicles were allowed to pass.

“We are happy that the Mamata Banerjee government has undertaken developmental projects for Jangalmahal. It’s good that rice is being given to the people here at 2 but that is not enough. Mamata had promised that she will ensure the release of political prisoners and hundreds of others who have been held on false charges. So far, not enough has been done to free them,” said Niyati Mahato at the rally held at Vidyasagar Hall ground.

Monoj Mahato pointed out that the PCPA had agitated for the local people but were framed by the police. “We were arrested on false charges and jailed. Hundreds of people are still in various jails of Jangalmahal. They are innocent and have been arrested on false charges. While nothing has been done to release them, CPM leaders who organized mass killings and are guilty of storing arms in their houses are still roaming free,” said Mahato.

Mallika Mahato, a resident of Salboni, narrated how her teenaged son was arrested twice, accused of being Maoist and has still not been released. “He was a class IX student and had nothing to with the Maoists. But he was framed by the police which took him away. He couldn’t be traced for two months after his arrest. Now, he is in jail even though he is innocent,” said Mallika.

It was also alleged that armed CPM camps still survive in the forests. “The SP knows about it but no action is being taken. We demand the arrest of CPM men involved in the Netai killings and other mass murders. Chhataradhar Mahato and other political prisoners should be released immediately. We would like to remind Mamata Banerjee that she had promised justice and a proper enquiry into the killngs of Azad, Lalmohan Tudu, Shibu Soren and Sashadhar Mahato. No concrete step has yet been taken,” said Ray Choudhury.

Another APDR rally will be held at Jhargram on Saturday.

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Political prisoners on hunger-strike demanding unconditional release

23 June 2011

statesman news service
MIDNAPORE/KRISHNAGAR, 23 JUNE: Hundreds of political prisoners, who are lodged in different correctional homes across the state, observed a day-long hunger-strike today demanding unconditional release.
The prisoners include those arrested on the charges of having links with Maoist and members of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) that spearheaded movements against the police atrocities on the tribal people in Junglemahal from November 2008.
Among the prisoners, spearheaded the hunger strike, are Chhatradhar Mahato, Sukhshanti Baskey, Prasun Chatterjee and Raja Sarkhel in Midnapore Central Correctional Home, Chandi Sarkar, Sabyasachi Goswami, Zakir Hosen and Pradip Chatterjee in Krishnagar, Gour Chakrabarti in Presidency and Telugu Dipak in Alipore.
To support their demand, family members and sympathisers of these political prisoners, who mostly came from Junglemahal, took out a rally under the banners of Bondi Mukti Committee and Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) in Midnapore town and over 10,000 people walked over 2 km.
Hours before the rally, the security forces arrested one Baidyanath Hembram from Kumarpur in Kantapahari in Jhargram on charges of having links with Maoists. He was travelling in a private bus to reach Midnapore from his house, but the security forces, acting on a tip-off, stopped the bus near Kumarpur and arrested him.
Mr Tapas Chakraborty, the state vice-president of APDR, alleged that about 100 prisoners in Midnapore Correctional Home have been suffering from Jaundice since the past five days due to the negligence of the concerned authorities.
A political prisoner in Nadia’s Krishnagar Correctional Home had written a letter to the APDR on some issues and went on for a token hunger strike. The information spread to the other correctional homes and all the political prisoners observed the strike today.
Their charter of demands included the release of Bangladeshi prisoners, many of whom have already crossed their period of punishment. The other important demands include filling up of vacancies of the judges in various courts, including Ranaghat court of Nadia.
Mr Arup Dasgupta, joint secretary of APDR in Midnapore, alleged that the security forces conducted raids on at least 20 buses which were carrying the family members of the political prisoners at different places along the routes in Junglemahal on hopes to foil their programme. “The security forces even did not allow them to hang our banners from the buses,” he alleged.
In the convention held at Vidyasagar Hall in Midnapore, Mr Amit Dyuti Kumar, vice-president of APDR, said the APDR has been fighting for unconditional release of political prisoners.
The Mamata Banerjee-led government has decided in its first Cabinet meeting to form a review committee to examine the issue on a case-to-case basis, but this approach is far short of our expectations. We appeal to the government to announce a general amnesty for political prisoners,” Mr Kumar said.

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