CDRO Convention

Plight of Political Prisoners

[Following is a statement issued by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations (CDRO) comprising APDR (WB), PUDR (Delhi), BMC (WB), OPDR (AP), ACRA (WB), COHR (Manipur), CPDM (Manipur) and MASS (Assam) from their convention held on March 30, 2014, at Muslim Institute Hall, Kolkata.]

In view of the 16th Lok Sabha elections and in expecting aspiring MPs to give voice to the concerns and aspirations of the people in the new parliament and noting the fact that major political parities are oblivious of raising the issue of the unconditional release of political prisoners, this Convention assembly organized by Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization (CDRO) at Muslim Institute Hall, Kolkata on 30 March, 2014 calls upon all parties, organizations and individuals involved in this electoral exercise to come out openly to stand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners who are charged under sedition (124A of IPC), UAPA, NSA. AFSPA, and under various IPC, ‘crimes’. A large majority of these prisoners are from the most marginalized sections of the society, adivasis and dalits, and in most cases they do not have the economic wherewithal to ensure proper legal representation and fight the legal battles for their release. Therefore, the onus for their unconditional release lies even more heavily on the government; upholding the fundamental right to justice of all citizens shall pave the way for the unconditional release of them all. Therefore, this convention requests them to publicly state their views on the matter of the release of political prisoners and what steps they would take to ensure the same if elected to government. Also, CDRO would like to express grave concern about the impunity of the police and security forces which is very detrimental to the democratic fabric of country.

This Convention, declaring itself an integral part of the worldwide campaign for unconditional release of all political prisoners (11 million), today demands unconditional release [undertrial and convict, both alike] of all political prisoners immediately here in West Bengal and in every state and Union Territories within this country.

There are a large number of political prisoners in India as a result of large-scale incarceration under framed and false criminal charges against political and social activists and general masses struggling against various policies of the governments under Liberalisation/Globalization with or without radical slants.

The Convention understands the pretext of "Rule of Law" to blur distinction between the political prisoners and non-political under-trial/convicts bereft of any political ideology and holds that the question of political offences must be treated differently in keeping with the age-old tradition developed by Bhagat Singh, Khusdhiram, Binay-Badal-Dinesh, Jotin Das and others who were treated as "terrorists" in their struggles for independence and for rights to be recognized as political prisoners and in struggles in post-colonial period during Tebhaga, Telangana or naxalbari movements.

The Convention denounces the State policy of clamping 'ban' along with "vaguely defined crimes" (terrorism etc) in trying to suppress political dissent of both conventional and unconventional kinds.

The Convention also records the fact that various governments (of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Nagaland, Assam, Chhattisgarh) initiated steps for political dialogues on a number of occasions with 'militants" or "terrorists" organizations thereby recognizing the political content of their activities which often government dubbed as 'anti-constitutional'.

The Convention opposes the counter-insurgency strategy adopted by the State with various nicknames, such as 'Operation Thunder', 'Operation Bluebird' or 'Operation Green Hunt' and creation of special killing forces, Grey Hound, Cobra etc, with unlimited powers and impunity and without accountability to "tackle the so-called terrorisms, left wing extremism" by throwing the Constitution into winds.

The Convention expresses its deep concern over the stark fact that the Muslim Community including Kashmiris has been particularly persecuted, haunted down, imprisoned and booked under various "anti-terror laws" or physically eliminated or made involuntary disappearances.

The Convention points to the prevalent wide-spread socio-economic injustice and perverted state-policies supported by state-terror as root-cause of growing internal unrest and political protests.

The Convention recalls that way back in 1975 the United Nations introduced a resolution calling for world-wide amnesty for all "political prisoners". Even in India, the Supreme Court defined the "political offence" in Rajender Kumar Jain case [1980 (3) SCC 435].

The Convention in unequivocal terms condemns the new West Bengal government for its act of amending Section 24 of the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992 to change the definition of political prisoners. The intention is to exclude Maoists from being treated as political prisoners and set the ground for ruthless repression of socio-political protests. The Convention demands that the government rescind the amendment immediately. The Convention feels for those thousands of under-trial prisoners (ordinary non-political prisoners) languishing in jails without trial for years together -some even for 10 years, 9 years and so on. The conditions of prisons are just like a hell. The Convention unequivocally demands immediate grant of bail and speedy fair trial for them all along with improvements of prison conditions. The Convention resolves to express and extend support and stand in solidarity with political prisoners who are fighting for their rights in prisons. Today’s Convention also calls upon all political parties and forces to come out against murders, arrests and other kinds intimidation of the grassroots activists fighting for implementation of laws such as RTI, FRA, PESA, environmental laws, labor-related laws like minimum wages act, trade union act etc and to oppose the growing trend of violation of constitutional and legal rights of freedom of speech and right to peaceful assembly etc by the governments everywhere.

This Convention declares its resolve and faith in ultimate victory of democracy and justice in this country and in release of all political prisoners unconditionally.

Vol. 46, No. 42, Apr 27 - May 3, 2014