The Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations, CDRO, strongly condemns the punitive measures adopted by the jail administration of Kolkata’s Presidency Correctional Home against 30 political prisoners who have been on hunger strike since 28th August 2015.
The strike has been called to protest the recent curbs that the administration has instituted against these prisoners, including restricting their access to telephone and medical facilities and also limiting their free time outside of the lock-up. This situation has prevailed for nearly two weeks, especially after Deepak Kumar was punished for allegedly participating in a jail escape. Information from relatives of prisoners revealed that Deepak was falsely framed in the escape and the administration forcibly locked him up and took away his clothes. Only after Deepak protested this high-handedness by resorting to a hunger strike for three days in mid-August, the administration agreed to retract the measures.
Prison rights are rarely talked about as information about repression stays outside public scrutiny. Not much is known about how prison authorities orchestrate arbitrary or targeted attacks against political prisoners held under draconian laws like UAPA, and punish them for being resistant inmates who dare to protest against violations of basic rights by the administration. In the present instance, the authorities are well aware that ailing and elderly inmates like GourChakravarty, Sadanala Ramakrishna and Asim Bhattacharya are on hunger strike and that their health is precarious. Instead of being concerned about their welfare, the welfare officer, Taranath Dhamala has orally threatened them and other prisoners with reprisals. On 30th August, the administration locked up each of the 30 striking prisoners in solitary confinement and refused to allow them to either talk to other prisoners or use the telephone. The clamp down is meant to confine the problem within closed walls and the calculated indifference towards their physical condition is obviously directed towards breaking resistance.
The prison authorities and the State Government should know that the well-being of the striking prisoners is their responsibility. The fact that inmates of Dumdum jail might also resort to a similar strike from 2nd September further explains how denial of prison rights cannot be brushed aside and how resistance movements can be built across jails. Unless the issues raised by the striking prisoners in Presidency Correctional Home is immediately resolved, the situation might turn very serious.
CDRO extends its solidarity with striking inmate in Presidency Correctional Home and demands that their rights be restored immediately. Further, it demandsaction against concerned jail officials who have threatened and punished the striking inmates.
C. Chandrasekhar (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Paramjeet Singh (PUDR, Delhi), Parmindar Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal) (Coordinators of CDRO).
Constituent Organisations:Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR), Punjab; Association for Protection of Democratic Rights APDR), West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Morcha (BMC), West Bengal; Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), Andhra Pradesh; Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai; Coordination for Human Rights (COHR), Manipur; Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh; Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR), Jharkhand; Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Assam; Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR), Andhra Pradesh; Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR), Jammu and Kashmir; Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF), Karnataka; Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi; Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR), Haryana