An Appeal to the International Community
On behalf of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, let us draw the attention of the International Community to a very urgent and pressing problem with which the democratic and progressive people of the Indian sub-continent committed to the people’s cause are confronted. For the last several years, thousands of people have been arrested from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to the regions of the north-east. Countless number of people have been brutally tortured in custody, thousands had ‘disappeared’, many of them were being killed by security and paramilitary forces in fake encounters and the wounded rest, numbering several thousands sent to prison most of the time without any medical care and kept there virtually without trial for years, even decades together.
Most of these persons have been incarcerated because of the political ideology they stand for. They have been put behind bars because of their criticism of and uncompromising resistance against the policies of the repressive Indian State to evict them from their land and habitat, the selling out of the country’s natural resources to foreign MNCs by the Union and local state governments; they have been arrested and subjected to humiliation and sadistic torture for their fight for the right of self-determination, as also for their struggle for the restructuring of the existing property relations and the creation of a better society based on fundamental democratic values.
Two sections of the people have been identified by the State as the main targets of its so-called ‘war against terror’—the Maoists or the Naxalites whom the Prime Minister of India had in April 2006 described as the ‘single largest threat to internal security’ and the Muslims who are being portrayed by sections of the media as ‘terrorists’, and ‘ISI agents’. The ‘SIMI’ (Student Islamic Movement of India) has been banned terming it as a terrorist organization.
By consciously adopting this vilification campaign, the Indian state and the Union and state governments have been trying to extract a social sanction to do, like the witch-hunters in medieval Europe, whatever they wish, to them. They can be picked up without any warrant of arrest, tortured in custody, kept under illegal detention for days together, picked up in one place on one day and produced in court after many days and declared to be arrested at another place—all according to their own sweet will by trampling all democratic norms this very Indian state professes to uphold. Anyone who dares to speak out against the policy of the state in such regions as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar are potential Maoists, and branded as such.
Besides the Maoists and other Naxalites, and the Muslims, there are the Kashmiris, civil rights activists, Kamtapuris of north Bengal, Manipuris, Assamese, ‘Greater Coochbehar’ movement activists, Gorkhaland movement activists, Burmese freedom fighters, dalits, adivasis, members of women’s organizations, Tamil prisoners and others. Some of the prisoners particularly in Tamil Naidu and West Bengal belong to parliamentary parties as well.
In the prisons, the living conditions are as bad as to beggar description. Bad diet, inhuman, totally unhygienic living conditions, torture and humiliation in various forms are what these prisoners face day in and day out. Once a person is released on bail, he/she is picked up again in another new case from the jail gate itself. There are many people who have been kept in prison for years together, many have been sentenced, some prisoners such as those accused in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case or in the Parliament attack case, have been sentenced to death. Long years of captivity have made many of them victims of psychological trauma, physical degeneration, mental breakdown and derangement. Some prisoners have already died unnatural deaths in prisons, some died after being released on bail. The legal process is also very long, frustrating and very much expensive and often unbearable.
The CRPP is committed to the task of raising its voice for the unconditional release of all these political prisoners irrespective of their political aims and methods of struggle. This is a gigantic task. We have undertaken this historic task and are committed to pursue it to the best of our ability. However, we sincerely need support from the International Community. Friends from afar, we need your moral, political and financial support. The issue of the unconditional release of political prisoners, we know, is a political issue and would have to be addressed at that level. On behalf of the CRPP, I appeal to our friends worldwide to raise the issue of political prisoners in the Indian sub-continent at the international level, in their own countries, to do whatever they think appropriate to put pressure on the Government of India to facilitate the process for the withdrawal of death sentences, draconian acts and of all cases pending against them—both under-trial and convicts—and the subsequent unconditional release of all of them now incarcerated in the different jails of the country. Side by side, we also need your financial support, as the burden has already become unbearable and many things could not be done due to lack of funds.
One need not have to be a Maoist to demand the release of the Maoist political prisoners; one need not have to be a Muslim to demand the release of Muslim political prisoners, one need not have to be a Kashmiri, or a Manipuri or a Kamtapuri to demand their unconditional release from prisons. One need not have to be none of them. One needs only to believe that there should be freedom to have one’s own political views, to have the right to express those and practice that ideology in one’s own way in the interest of the people. One needs to have the belief that the people, who have been fighting not in their self-interest, but in the interest of the people, cannot be made prisoners and should be set free unconditionally. This demand is a democratic demand and one which had and has been raised in all countries of the world time and again. The CRPP urges the International Community to raise this demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners in the Indian sub-continent irrespective of their views and the methods of struggle.