Political Sufferers’ Pension


During the later phase of its rule, the Left Front government of West Bengal, whatever the reasons, introduced a scheme for pensions of those who had suffered imprisonment for political reasons. A large number of persons, including quite a few earlier Naxalites, associated with various movements thus began to receive some amount of money on a monthly basis. The overwhelming majority of them had applied for pension under duress. In 2013, the TMC government suddenly cancelled the scheme. The political sufferers challenged this decision in the Kolkata High Court. In its submission, the pleader of the TMC government said that the petitioners were criminals because, according to police reports, they had been imprisoned for committing crimes against the state. Justice Arijit Bandopadhyay, gave his verdict in November, 2015, directing the government to renew the pension. But the government paid no heed, which amounted to contempt of court. The government has now moved the division bench of the High Court against Justice Bandopadhyay's order.

Now the point is: is there any distinction in the Indian Penal Code between a political offence and a criminal offence? In 1977, after the defeat and dethronement of Indira Gandhi and her party in the Lok Sabha polls, there was a vigorous mass movement, e.g. signature campaign, processions, street lectures, mass meetings, demonstrations etc, for the release of political prisoners, and the Left Front, after coming to power, yielded to the demand. Among those released under the pressure of the mass movement was a fellow, then an organiser of the peasant struggle in Gopiballavpur, West Medinipur, and now an important leader of the trade union wing of the TMC. Was this fellow, who was then sentenced to imprisonment for life, a criminal? Does he now denounce the movement that secured his release? An important functionary of the APDR, now reportedly belonging to the close circles of the ruling establishment, also owed his release to the movement of 1977. Does he think that he was criminal in those days?

Or do the ex-Naxalites and earlier radical intellectuals, now with the ruling party, denounce the movement of 1977 as a movement for the release of ‘criminals’? ooo 


Vol. 49, No.10, Sep 11 - 17, 2016