IMPRISONED VOICES: POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

 PUDR organised 30th Ramanadham Memorial Lecture on the issue of Political Prisoners in India on 12th Sep 2015. Click here for videos of speakers.

About the Lecture: Dr A. Ramanadham, a pediatrician and civil liberties activist was the Vice President of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC). On 3 September, 1985, he was killed in his clinic in Warangal by a group of men from a policeman's funeral procession. Since then, this day has been observed as a day to uphold the struggle of civil liberties and democratic rights. On this occasion, PUDR has always held an annual lecture on an issue concerning people's rights and democracy. This year, we wish to examine issues related to political prisoners.

A Song by मेहनतकश महिला संगठन, दिल्ली,

Issue of Political Prisoners: In contemporary India, the category of political prisoners includes members/supporters of proscribed/banned organisations, and/or those charged under draconian laws (which aggravates the offence and thus the sentence), and/or millions of people living in conflict zones. In short, all those individuals and groups, whose political views fall foul of the authorities and who are persecuted for the same, are for us Political Prisoners.

Introduction of the meeting by Anatya, (Peoples Union for Democratic Rights)-

 PUDR argues for protecting the rights of political prisoners because of the special ways in which they are segregated inside the jails, subjected to mistreatment and abuse at the hands of jail authorities, even by the Police and IB although they are in judicial custody. All this stems from the tunnel vision of a State which has failed in protecting life and liberty of its citizens, let alone life of dignity, and instead of remedying this it chooses to criminalize resistance

Kanchan Bala, मेहनतकश महिला संगठन, दिल्ली, Speakiog on her experience as political prisoner.

While political prisoners do not demand any special privileges; jail authorities, responsible for the personal security of all prisoners in their custody, have been guilty of imposing ‘special’ punitive measures against a prisoner, on grounds of their political crimes as members/sympathisers of a banned organisation. Members of banned organisations are marked out inside the jail and subjected to torture, mental and physical and their rights are also curtailed. While rights of all prisoners need to be respected, it is an anomaly and distinction which State espouses, namely “High Risk Prisoner”, which singles them out for special treatment. The presence of double standards and virtually two systems of criminal law, therefore, goes to the heart of the problem of making of a special category “Political Prisoners”.

Mr. Arun Ferreira, Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai. Raising the question of definition status and condition of political prisoners in India.

The category political prisoner is important because it tells us about the nature of the State. There is persecution by the State for holding or propagating and mobilising views contrary to it. Thus individuals become political prisoners not only in armed conflict zones where local people are targetted because of their potential to form mass base for the organised movements and struggles but also in areas where non-violent resistance to majoritarian agendas or interests of capital are found.

Mr. Sujato Bhadra, Vice President, Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP). Sharing his experiences of dealing with issue of political prisoners in West Bengal

The issue of political prisoners cannot be separated from the nature of the Indian criminal justice system. It is a system biased against the economically and socially deprived, the Muslim minority, lower caste Hindus or tribal people. This bias also extends to political and social organisations working among these marginalized groups. Thus instead of meeting demands for democratic political solutions or justice, the response of the State is the creation of the category political prisoner.

Mr. Mehmood Pracha, Advocate, Delhi, sharing his experiences of dealing with the cases of political prisoners.