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[A background note, by Revolutionary Frontlines, on why capitalist governments refuse to grant “political prisoner” status to democratic and revolutionary opponents who have been captured and held by the state:
A court in India has decided that some allegedly Maoist prisoners should be categorized “Political Prisoners.” Other sections of the state apparatus oppose this, loudly. Some even launch legal motions to remove this category from the Maoists. What’s the difference, and why should be care?
Everywhere in the world, wherever governments drape themselves in the pretense of democracy—and this goes for imperialist countries like the US, Britain, France and many others, as well as countries that adopted the “democratic” veneer when they emerged from colonialism and became “independent” but neo-colonial neo-comprador states—they actively promote the lie that democratic rights and freedoms are equally shared, and all can receive justice under the law.
But when a huge section of people—even a majority, or more—are blocked, from generation to generation, from any form of rights or justice, and they develop democratic and revolutionary movements and organizations, all their protests and demands are routinely criminalized, because their existence and practice expose and destroy the legitimacy of the faux-democratic state.
So, getting back to the question: why demand, and struggle for “political prisoner” status when activists are arrested and charged with common crimes—or are held for months or years without charge? Because, for a state to admit it has political prisoners is
- to admit that the state is not democratic, that oppressors and oppressed have no equality before the law;
- an admission that political prisoners have been arrested mainly because of their opposition to the state, and are being denied basic human rights;
- a confession by the state that criminal charges are routinely fabricated to cover up the political repression which is going on;
- and that democratic movements and revolutionary organizations which have been jailed are representing the political interests of the oppressed, and are not criminal organizations.
- and finally, the presence of political prisoners indicates that justice is not a domestic struggle–seeking civil rights from an oppressive state—but is a battle for human rights, to be sought by the masses themselves, using whatever arena is available on an international level.
For these reasons, the Indian state is determined to quash the “political prisoner” status granted by a wayward, indisciplined—and uncommonly principled—Indian judge.
See the following articles from the Indian bourgeois media about the “Political Prisoner” label/debate. – Frontlines ed.]
7 Maoists get political prisoner status
KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court Wednesday granted status of political prisoners to seven Maoist leaders and sympathizers in West Bengal jails, the rebels’ counsel said.
The seven include Venkateshwara Reddy alias Telugu Dipak and Chhatradhar Mahato.
“Justice Kanwaljit Aluwalliah allowed our prayer granting the status of political prisoners. They have been languishing in jails for long and it is yet to be proved that they are Maoists and involved in violent activities,” counsel Subhasish Roy told IANS.
The others to get the status are Communist Party of India-Maoist spokesperson Gaur Chakrabarty, Sukhshanti Baskey, Shambhu Soren, Sagun Murmu and Prasun Chatterjee.
Deepak, a close associate of slain Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, is said to be the mastermind behind the Silda camp attack in West Midnapore district which left 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles soldiers dead. He was arrested in March 2010.
Tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato was the spokesman of the Maoist backed Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) and was arrested along with Chatterjee in 2009.
September 26, 2012
Centre may challenge ‘political prisoner’ status to Maoists
Sandeep Joshi, The Hindu
Government has no option as more arrested Naxals will clamour for the tag: MHA sources
The Union government is likely to challenge a Kolkata court’s declaration that nine suspected Naxalites arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in an illegal arms manufacturing case as “political prisoners.”
Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the government had no option but to challenge the verdict as more arrested Maoists would now seek the same status.
The judgment was also a big letdown for the security forces, who were living in difficult conditions and in inhospitable terrain while fighting armed revolutionaries, the sources said.
The status of “political prisoner” entitles an inmate several privileges over other prisoners as he will get to live in a separate cell and enjoy greater freedom inside jail, besides getting access to home made-food, newspapers, books and other reading material. There will be relaxation in meeting relatives and advocates.
Significantly, in August, the Kolkata High Court had declared eight suspected Maoists, including Communist Party of India (Maoist)-backed leader Chhatradhar Mahato, as “political prisoners.”
The MHA is deeply worried over granting of “political prisoner” status to those arrested by the NIA for their alleged involvement in killings or supplying arms, which includes CPI (Maoist) technical committee head Sadula Ramakrishna alias RK. The NIA might be asked to challenge the order soon.
“According such a status to a hardened criminal who is waging war against the state is unacceptable… it will set a wrong precedent. Already a few suspected Maoists are on hunger strike in Maharashtra jail demanding that they also be declared political prisoners. It will also severely affect the morale of our security forces who sacrifice their lives fighting these anti-national elements,” said a senior MHA official.
However, public opinion is divided over the court ruling. While social activist Swami Agnivesh, who in the past has negotiated with Maoists for the government, said it would help the government in its peace efforts, the former Border Security Force (BSF) Director General Prakash Singh said the government should immediately challenge the order as it would only strengthen left-wing extremism.
“Challenging the order will be a mistake… here is an opportunity for the government to tell Maoists that they too would be treated with dignity inside jails. This move will let Maoists trust the Constitution and Indian laws. They are also part of our society and all efforts should be made to bring them back to the national mainstream. The government should accord the same status to all Maoists lodged in various jails across India,” said Swami Agnivesh.
‘Will encourage Maoism’
However, ex-BSF chief Prakash Singh warned that if the government failed to stop the trend, it would be an invitation to other Maoists to take up arms and intensify their movement. “We cannot generalise the situation… those who support Maoists ideologically through their write-ups and peaceful protests can be treated as political prisoners, but how can a person responsible for killing security personnel and innocent people be given special status inside jails,” he said.
Mr. Singh further said if the government did not challenge this “theoretical order,” it would be yet another step backwards in its fight against terrorism. “We cannot ignore harsh ground realities… Maoists are engaged in guerrilla warfare, in fighting the Indian state. Even the Prime Minister recently referred to Maoists as the biggest threat to our internal security. The government needs to wake up before more Maoists demand the same status,” he said. Notably, since the CPI (Maoist) was formed, over 5,291 security personnel and civilians have lost their lives to Maoist violence.
Court grants nine rebels political prisoner status
Soumen Datta, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, September 23, 2012
Days after the Calcutta high court granted seven arrested Maoists, including Venkateshwar Reddy alias Telugu Dipak and Chhatradhar Mahato, the status of political prisoner, chief justice of the city sessions court has extended the same verdict to Maoist leaders arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
A petition was filed before the court by the nine accused, seeking the status of political prisoner. Although the NIA counsel in Kolkta opposed the pleas by the arrested Maoist leaders, the sessions court overruled their objection when the Maoist’s counsel referred to the August 8 Calcutta high court judgment.
As per the rules, the status of political prisoner can be applied to anyone arrested or convicted for committing, attempting to commit or aiding and abetting political offences, whether or not the offences themselves are punishable by the Indian Penal Code, or any person believed to have been prosecuted out of political animosity.
The law also says that anyone who commits or allegedly commits an offence during a political or democratic movement with an exclusive political objective, free from personal greed or motive, is entitled to political prisoner status. An individual who is charged with waging war; conspiracy to wage war or sedition against the state is punishable under sections 121 to 130 of the IPC can also be a political prisoner.
Five Maoist leaders, including Sadanala Ramakrishna, who have been charge sheeted by the NIA, and four others who have no been charge sheeted yet, appealed before the court, seeking political prisoner status, after the August 8 case.
NIA top brass in Delhi refused to comment, since they have not seen the final report yet. “Only after going through the session court order, will we think of the next step,” said an NIA officer.
The nine Maoist leaders were nabbed in the NIA case, which was registered following the seizure of a large cache of materials used to make rock launchers. The explosives were recovered from various parts of the country, including Kolkata.
During their investigations, the NIA found that the Maoists had taken the help of northeastern rebels. Maoist central committee member, Aloke, met the top brass of Manipur based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Myanmar.
There was a trade of between the two groups, with the Maoists exchanging arms and ammunition for ammonium nitrate, which the PLA demanded. Investigations have also revealed that Sadanala Ramakrishna was trying to manufacture the rocket launchers with the aid of Maharashta based Bengali engineer, Ashim Kumar Haranath Bhattacharya.
The duo had ordered parts from various foundries in Kolkata, as well as from other parts of the country.