The degree of civilization in a society
Can be judged by entering the prisons
COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
MARCH31,APRIL 1, 2008, LTG AUDITORIUM, MANDI HOUSE,NEWDELHI
Maulana Nasiruddin, Sheela Didi, Nanak Baghel, Suraj Tekam, Nirmal Brahmachari, Dr. Binayak Sen, Lachit Bordoloi, Mohammad Afzal,Perari Valan, Pozhilan, Kunangudi Haneefa, activists of Bhoomi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) in West Bengal, Narayan Sanyal, Sushil Roy, Malla Raja Reddy—these are just a few names of the growing list of political prisoners abounding the prisons in various regions. Besides, there are the Sri Lankan Tamils, Bangladeshi Muslims, and people from
The Kashmiris, Nagas, People of Manipur,
Media as the court of trial: It is the media, its multi-dimensional effects on public psyche where the image of the ‘terrorist’, the ‘anti-national’, the ‘single largest internal security threat’, all get profiled; towards manufacturing the consent for a State devoid of impunity—any regard for norms, procedures, for the basic human rights of the detained as guaranteed by the UN. The construction of the ‘enemy’ of the State starts well ahead in the media as it caricatures all outstanding problems faced by the vast sections of the people. The obliging media in the times of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation produces a surfeit of images of the people, their issues, their movements against exploitation, oppression, mistreatment and discrimination, against displacement, destitution, destruction and death as something which have frozen and fossilised in time and should hence be repackaged akin to the politics of charity promoted by foreign and State funded NGOs and the so-called civil society.
Thus tribal communities are poor as they are anti-development; Muslims have gone astray because their religion is conservative and they don’t feel proud to be Indian; every Kashmiri Muslim is a suspect because of being a Kashmiri as well as a Muslim; the Maoists are trigger happy Robin Hoods devoid of any politics who resort to extortion, drug peddling and live out of plunder of the forest wealth. All nationality movements are against the sovereignty and security of the Indian nation. The civil and democratic rights activists who demand the enforcement of norms and procedures, the rights of the political prisoner are portrayed as accomplices in fomenting terrorising, against the integrity of the nation.
In the age of standardisation, protests or dissent has not been an exception. Dissent has also got standardised in terms of advocacy as well as petitioning. All other forms of dissent hence are against civility and should be punished. Thus when a detainee is brought before the people through the trial enforced by the media the prejudice is so much that the opinionated public gives a passive consent to the State to do whatever it wants to the political prisoner. Any such vilifying campaign of the media goes against the right of the detained to be presumed innocent as required by Article 14 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Being a political prisoner is a definite political act: To confine a people, a person, a community behind bars for the reason that they have refused to be treated the way the state is dealing with them; they have refused to be oppressed, exploited, discriminated and mistreated; is the inability of the State to deal with its own limitations. It is also a clear sign that the State has lost the humanity that it claims to have or vouches for every citizen. The haste with which the State has targeted all these people as ‘evil’, ‘anti-national’, ‘foreign’, ‘anti-development’, shows that it has lost its possibilities and is threatened by its own limitations. Yes it dreads the free movement of such citizens. Thus limitations take precedence and become the norm. Today, in addition to the already existing draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Disturbed Areas Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act, we have every state in India enacting its own internal security laws that have given the military, paramilitary and police sweeping powers to apprehend anyone under the slightest of suspicions or even without it. It is the State that has violated the norms and procedures and the rule of law, to act politically to prevent the other opinion from taking precedence among the people. The fight for the release of these prisoners becomes important at a juncture where the law has failed to be impartial and fair. In fact, going through the numerous cases of incarceration one is forced to say that all laws and procedures have been bypassed to ensure the confinement of the political prisoner for life. Even in cases where the prisoner has been released in certain specific instances, the traumatic life after acquittal for the prisoner denotes the magnitude of the prejudice that society has undergone vis-a-vis the hatred and hysteria of the ‘war against terror’ created by the state.
Political Prisoners are the measure of our humanity: Political prisoners are people who are convinced about the possibility of a better society for the greater common good. Not only were the convinced about the need for a better world but were deeply involved in making it a possibility. One might disagree with their ideology. Yet some might have reservations about the means they resort for the betterment of a world of miseries and wretchedness. Those who are in power might strongly disagree with their socio-economic and political aspirations. These people, who are defied the light of the day, condemned to live death within the dark walls of the prison by the powers that be, belong to a wide spectrum of political beliefs through which they dream to espouse the social cause that they have given their life.
It is this conviction that forced Rabindra Nath Tagore to defend the cause of the political prisoner during the days of anti-colonial struggle against the British. The people who fought against British were also against the exploitation and oppression of the freedom loving people of
Defending the rights of the Political Prisoner: The jails are often overcrowded with the worst hygiene conditions. The jail manual is hardly followed. A good number of prisoners are condemned to rot in the prisons as they have hardly any means to meet the bail fee. The preamble of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensures the need for countries to uphold the rights of anyone resorting to dissent against the policies of the State. This guarantees the rights of the political prisoner. Contrary to the claim of being the largest democracy in the world,
Especially, at a time when there is a growing consensus among the judiciary, executive and the legislature with active connivance of the fourth estate to deny any possible rights to political prisoners, for a political prisoner, it becomes important to fight for every moment of her/his life behind bars. There is no other way the right of the political prisoner can be achieved as she/he has been denied the right to express their political opinion or to organise on that basis.
The inaugural conference on political prisoners is a historic and definite step in this direction. The memories of the days of emergency revisits us a cold reminder. It brings back the memories of the days of anti-colonial struggle, that of the valiant resistance of Bahadur Shah against the East India Company and the attendant hanging to death of thousands of Muslims belonging to the slaughter community. It enlivens the spirit of the heroic martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Ashfaqullah; of Bhoomaiah and Kishta Goud in Telangana in the 60s; the memory of Maqbhool Bhat being shown the gallows in the 80s.
Amit Bhattacharyya, Coordinator.
Convenor’s Committee of the Conference Preparatory Committee:
Surendra Mohan, A Marx, Amit Bhattacharyya, SAR Geelani, GN Saibaba, Rona Wilson
5 March 2008.
For the Conference on Political Prisoners
Address: 185/3, Fourth Floor, Zakir Nagar, New Delhi-110025
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