Interview With Arun Ferreira

The Colours of the Cage

[Arun Ferreira was a maoist political prisoner. He faced barbaric custodial torture. He languished five long years as an undertrial in Nagpur’s notorious Anda barrack. He wrote his proson experiences. The book The Colours of the Cage: Prison Memoirs, has been translated into Telugu. ‘Malupu’ , a Hyderabad based publishing house has published it. On the occassion of its release, Arun Ferreira came to Hyderabad. Attaluri Aruna of Saakshi, a Telugu daily, interviewed him. Here is the free translation of that interview, published on July 16, 2015]

Q.  Did you write the book in jail?
A.    I wrote the book after my release. Mumbai police implicated me in many false cases. They severely tortured me. I was in a horrible dungeon sans light and air—called Anda Cell—for four years and eight months. Basically I was a cartoonist. In the beginning I drew cartoons on the cruelty I faced, on the sufferings of co-prisoners and on many shades of prison life. The thought of writing memoirs came later.

Q.  Your opinion on Jails?
A.    Indian prison is a place where justice and law are not implemented. Whatever is dictated by the police or the jail officials is the law here. We are left with only one form of struggle i.e. hunger strike. We did that to achieve some of our basic demands.

Q.  What kind of third degree methods you faced during interrogation?
A.    No part of my body remained free from torture. Police pierced needles into my nails. They hung me upside down. They tied my wide opened hands to a window while two policemen stood on my thighs for hours. They gave me electric shocks. Due to torture, blood oozed from ears. Alas, they could not extract a single information from my mouth.

This is not just my tale. Thousands of prisoners like me are facing horrendous third degree methods. To my co-prisoners, police pumped 100 ml petrol into their rectums. Their anal regions were severely wounded, with frequent bleedings. They were unable to walk for weeks, at times months. Their condition worsened sometimes that came closer to being fatal. I am sure police are given special training to inflict these third degree methods.

Q.  Is this situation only for Maoist prisoners? Or everyone has to face these tortures?
A.    The ordinary prisoners too face torture. Maoist prisoners generally face more brutality. In fact what I faced was only a part. There are other political prisoners who suffered 10 times more than me. They are still rotting in the jails.

See, Dr Saibaba is presently in the same cell, where I stayed. The Anda Cell would turn into a furnace where temperature would creep around 48°C. With no possible air flow at all, this cell is a living hell. You must move to a corner and sit in a squatting positing to save your body from seething waves. I managed, somehow, to survive the hellish conditions for five years. But Saibaba cannot even walk. He has to crawl all over the simmering floor and has to co-exist with that sizzling conditions. It is frightening even to imagine the situation!

Q.  Did the police torture you only to extract information?
A.    No, police officials want something else. They want us to keep away from the movement permanently. I was the first Maoist prisoner to have undergone the Narco tests. In Narco tests, whatever our answers might be the police would manipulate records to their advantage. They keep our answers intact but do change the questions. Now, of course, Narco tests cannot be done without prisoner’s consent.

Despite, excruciating tortures and brutalisation, ultimately, truth has won. All the false cases foisted on me failed. But, can I ever get back the life lost in the prison?

Q.  Majority of the prisoners in jails are dalits, adivasis and minorities. Why is this so?
A.    In American jails, blacks are in majority, why? They are voiceless people. They become target of oppression. Lawyers, must stand, like Balagopal did, in support of such hapless people. I am doing law for that very purpose to seek justice to those prisoners languishing for years just because they cannot afford to have proper legal aid.

Q.  After your prison life, is there any change in your outlook or determination?
A.    Absolutely no. I had to leave my kid to go to prison. Coming back from prison, I gave a big hug to my son. In the same way, I embrace the beloved movement with enhanced enthusiasm. I am awaiting the day when tall walls of all prisons fall like nine pins. ooo
[Translated by K Suman, Visakhapatnam]

Vol. 48, No. 5, Aug 9 - 15, 2015