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Don't Cry for Them India

Arun Ferreira's illegal arrest and torture is a telling example of the unlawful conduct of the police. While he and a few thus jailed received media attention, there are many who are rotting in jails, accused of being Maoists and tortured. Many of them have denied being Maoists but that is not the point. The Maoists, after all, are responding to the deceit and violence of the state in their chosen way.

MARGIN SPEAK

commemorate their liberation from the

Don’t Cry for Them India

Hindu religion. The police story outraged many sensibilities, which was reflected in the spate of articles and news items Anand Teltumbde that followed, condemning the arrest.

Arun Ferreira’s illegal arrest and torture is a telling example of the unlawful conduct of the police. While he and a few thus jailed received media attention, there are many who are rotting in jails, accused of being Maoists and tortured. Many of them have denied being Maoists but that is not the point. The Maoists, after all, are responding to the deceit and violence of the state in their chosen way.

Anand Teltumbde (tanandraj@gmail.com) is a writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.

Power in defense of freedom is greater than

power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.

–Malcom X

A
run Ferreira who was painted by the Maharashtra police as a dreaded Maoist has finally stepped out of the central prison, Nagpur recently. He spent nearly five years of his youthful life in jail undergoing all kinds of torture that is integral with the Maoist label and two controversial narco tests. The court has acquitted him in 10 out of the 11 cases that were slapped against him and granted him bail in one. Ferreira is not the exception and the Maharashtra police too acted true to type. The media picked up the cases of Binayak Sen and Arun Ferreira thus letting us know how an innocent Indian can be harassed merely for his or her dissenting views and incarcerated in jail for years by the Indian state. But there are thousands of faceless people like them languishing in Indian jails with neither media attention nor money to contest the false charges against them. They meekly endure their fate.

Ferreira’s Ordeals

The media driven by the logic of the market picks up cases which have news (sensation) value. The cases of Binayak Sen, Kobad Ghandy and Ferreira became newsworthy because they belonged to the middle class but chose to tread very different paths. Ferreira gained media attention because he was from Mumbai, from the middle class dream suburb of Bandra, and educated at the elite St Xavier’s College. He was arrested by the Nagpur Anti- Terrorist Squad (ATS) on 8 May 2007 along with Ashok Satyam Reddy alias Murli at Deekshabhoomi Nagpur with “deadly” weapons such as a pen drive and leftist literature. To justify their action, the police had concocted a story that they were plotting to blow up the Ambedkar Memorial there on Dassera when Ambedkarites congregate in large numbers to

february 4, 2012

Emboldened by this, some people sought to come out openly as “Friends of Arun Ferreira” to campaign for his release until they were threatened by the police with arrest.

In police custody, he underwent all kinds of torture including petrol being poured into the rectum. As he revealed at the press conference in Mumbai on 11 January 2012, the police had used the techniques of causing bodily pain without leaving any mark. He was subjected to narco tests, not once but twice, which had created another sensation because he inter alia revealed that the Maoist activities were funded in Maharashtra by Bal Thackeray. He documented his experience with the narco test in his My Tryst with Narco Test, which exposes the fake scientific basis of the test and its real character as a method of psychophysical torture. He was charged in nine Naxalrelated crimes, from murder to planting bombs and of course under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Over four years of legal battle, he was acquitted in all those cases and the Court did not find a shred of evidence against him.

On 27 September last year, he was freed. But the moment he set foot outside the jail gate, plain clothes officers pounced on him, covered his face and forced him into an unmarked car which sped away, all under the gaze of his elderly parents, who were waiting for him outside the prison. His lawyers tried to intervene but were beaten up. Later, they learnt that he was taken to the Purada police station and arrested in a case registered in 2007, when he was already in prison. The police wanted to keep him in the jail as long as possible taking advantage of the infirmity of the law.

The Faceless Others

In 2008, several college students, mostly dalits, were arrested on the suspicion of their links with the Maoists in Maharashtra.

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EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

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They were implicated in multiple cases. As in the case of Ferreira, the police did not have any evidence against them. As such they were acquitted by the courts one after another but not before they had borne their share of torture and jail terms. It left a permanent scar on their minds and a blemish on their future. Last year, the ATS supposedly busted a Maoist den in Pune, arresting among others one Angela Sontakke, reportedly a very important Naxal cadre in Maharashtra. Angela, an ex-college lecturer with BSc (Microbiology), BEd, MSc (Zoology) and MA (Sociology) degrees, has as many as 20 cases against her. By simple extrapolation, she could spend at least a decade in jail, if not rearrested or implicated in additional false cases. Among the arrested are also the activists of the Kabir Kala Manch of Pune, which had become well known as a radical Ambedkarite cultural outfit. Police terror has completely decimated this rising group, sending many of its talented activists into hiding. These people with their humble backgrounds of course did not make news.

The case of Sudhir Dhawale, noted writer, editor of Vidrohi (a radical Ambedkarite monthly), and a social activist however created a stir. Almost the entire who’s who of progressive Maharashtra led by noted socialist leader Bhai Vaidya and veteran activist in the educational, social and political fields N D Patil had come forward to press for his release. Dhawale was arrested on 3 January 2010 at the railway station while returning after attending a literary conference at Wardha. He was charged with sedition (Section 124) and under Sections 17, 20 and 39 of the UAPA. When confronted by the people, all that the police had to say was that they found incriminating literature and that his name was mentioned by one Bhimrao Bhoite, an alleged Maoist who was arrested earlier. The literature in question was 87 books by Ambedkar, Marx, Lenin, and Arundhati Roy, which were confiscated by the police in the raid on his house. As regards their other charge, if some alleged Maoist’s mere mention of a name is ground enough for arresting a person, Ferreira had named Bal Thackeray as funding Maoist activities in Maharashtra, a serious revelation that came out during the narco test. Should

Economic & Political Weekly

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not Thackeray have been arrested and subjected to investigation?

Unlawful Police Acts

As regards unlawful rearrests after acquit

tal by the courts, there were 27 cases of

political prisoners in the Nagpur jail

alone. It has become the modus operandi

of the police to hold people they want

inside the jail as long as they wish.

Nowhere in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is

Maoism defined as a crime but the police

treat it as such. Even after the Supreme

Court ruled that mere membership of a

banned organisation does not make a per

son criminal unless he or she resorts or

incites people to violence, the police per

sist with their high-handed behaviour.

Surely this constitutes contempt of court.

To commit violence or incite people to

commit it is a well-established crime in

the IPC, whatever the ideology of the com

mitter. When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s

Acharya Giriraj Kishore had publicly justi

fied the lynching of five dalits in Jhajjar in

2002 for allegedly killing a cow, he was

directly inciting people to repeat it but the

police did not act. In the case of Dhawale,

they kept repeating that he had links with

the Maoists.

As the case of Ferreira illustrates what

the police did is blatantly unlawful. By his

illegal arrest they violated his fundamen

tal right to liberty, belief and expression

guaranteed in the Constitution. This was

followed by a series of unlawful acts: in

threatening his friends with dire conse

quences if they voiced their support, in

torturing him in police custody, in forging

his signature on the consent form for the

narco test, in obtaining a fraudulent order

from the court for conducting the second

narco test, in concocting false charges

against him, in making a series of false rep

resentations before courts, in kidnapping

him after his release from the jail, in man

handling his lawyers, and much more.

One does not have to be a Maoist to expe

rience this unlawful conduct of our law

enforcing agency; it has been its abiding

character vis-à-vis the common masses. If

at the very basic level of its interface with

people, the state conducted itself in such a

grossly anti-people manner, the entire

constitutional superstructure with its high

sounding phrases just crumbles, crushing

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whatever hopes people had in the state. This is the very process that makes Maoists out of ordinary people.

Dreaming a Revolution

Arun Ferreira and most others have denied being Maoists. But even if they are so, that does not make them criminals. It is not the issue of Maoists being right or wrong, and even less so of justifying or condemning their actions. After all, they are people, who are responding to the deceit and violence of the state in their chosen way. One may disagree with their ideology or methods but one has to admit the horrific conditions, which propel them to take a radical path. After six decades of the constitutional regime proclaimed in the name of people, promising all kinds of lofty ideals, it has only aggravated the inherent injustice, inequality, violence, corruption, and doublespeak in the society. While the rich flaunt their opulent life styles, a vast majority of people go hungry. The country has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of malnourished, anaemic, hungry people and underfed, underweight, and stunted children in the world. The ruling classes just rely on their deceitful responses using caste and other such divisions. Indeed, the rot has gone much deeper than normally imagined. All middle class attempts at tinkering with the system therefore appear amiss. In contrast, the alleged Maoists stand apart with their agenda of revolution. They are the only ones who appear to have correctly comprehended the problem. It is utterly stupid of the state to think that imprisonment, torture, encounters and custodial deaths are going to deter them from their goal. No revolutionary has ever buckled under these methods and shunned revolution.

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