Kremlin’s Prisoners
Imprisoned in the Russian Far North, Oleg Sentsov is holding a hunger strike to force the release of 64 Ukrainian political prisoners.

Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film director from Simferopol and a political prisoner of the Kremlin, is on Day 16 of a hunger strike. Sentsov selected the start date (14 May) to make sure that he will have been striking for a full month by the start of the Football World Cup, which begins in Russia on 14 June. The aim of Sentsov's protest is the release of 64 Ukrainian citizens who are currently held in the Russian Federation on political grounds.
In summer 2014, Sentsov, an Auto Maidan activist from Crimea, was accused of terrorism offences—he reportedly planned to set a local United Russia office on fire and blow up a local Lenin monument. The investigation and trial was based on testimony received under torture and later retracted. No evidence of any terrorist group existing in Crimea was ever found, and the only thing that "proved" Sentsov's membership of Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, a name used by Kremlin propaganda to whip up fear of a "Nazi junta" in Kyiv, was a CD containing the Soviet documentary "Ordinary Fascism".

During his trial in 2015, Sentsov refused to recognise that Russian citizenship had been imposed on him, claiming that he wasn't a serf to be sold with the land. Without a shred of evidence, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and is currently being held in a prison colony in the Far North of Russia. The fact that Sentsov is both a film director and a incredibly brave individual has guaranteed him media support and international public opinion—which hasn't, it should be said, so far led to his release. But he isn't on hunger strike for himself : he is striking for all Ukrainian political prisoners currently held in the Russian Federation.

The majority of these prisoners are residents of Crimea, and many are Crimean Tatars. For many of these cases, there's only one or two mentions of them to be found in the media. All the cases are politically motivated : there is either insufficient evidence behind these prosecutions, or the charts being prosecuted are too serious for the evidence available. All these individuals should be released and sent to Ukraine as soon as possible.

The entire length of sentences handed out to these people so far, according to human rights defenders, is 189 years. The Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, have not rushed to work on the release of Ukrainian citizens systematically. In the four years since the first people were detained in 2014, the Ukrainian authorities have not created an official position that would be responsible for prisoner release or exchange. Recently, the Ukrainian press reported that activists involved the campaign to support Oleg Sentsov have faced problems—first, a printing service refused to produce leaflets for the Sentsov campaign on the pretext of pressure from the Ukrainian security services, and then the Kyiv city authorities demanded that a banner in support of Semsov should be removed from the city's House of Cinema (apparently it was "political advertising", which was banned during the Champions League Final in Kyiv).

The only man appointed—without any legal recognition of this position or legal responsibility for any inappropriate activity—to work on prisoner exchange on the Ukrainian side is, for some reason, Viktor Medvedehuk. This man, who back in the 1980s imprisoned Ukrainian dissidents.such as Vasyl Stus, was a strong opponent of Euro Maidan, and enjoys personal relationship with Vladimir Putin (since the latter is reported to be his daughter's godfather). Medvedehuk is also found on US and Canadian sanctions list.

The only way to help release the Krernlin's hostages is simultaneously pressuring the Russian and Ukrainian authorities to start negotiations on prisoner exchange or release immediately. The international community can act as a mediator at these negotiations in order to guarantee their effectiveness.

If negotiations on prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine don't start in the next few days, there is a risk that Oleg Sentsov will die on hunger strike.
Garna Grytsenko, May 29, 2018

The First Stone
The history of state terrorism says the first stone is always thrown by representatives of the police.
In the Indian social context, Dalit and tribal communities have always borne the brunt of police excesses or, to call it by its proper name, state terrorism. This violence has been a part of normal life for them. They had to face it just as they face caste abuse and untouchability every other day. Whenever they have asserted their rights—against atrocities, untouchability, sexual oppression, for their right to live, their right to livelihood and better wages—police lathis have split their heads. The guns that fire never miss their targets. Their humble dwellings are vandalized and razed to the ground. In independent India, one could cite any number of examples to establish this pattern.

The truth is that general society—so caste society—is not aware of the pain inflicted on Dalits and Adivasis by the state. For them, it is not just another case of violence. It is a betrayal of trust that no human being should be made to suffer. It robs from them the bonds they have with what they thought was 'their nation'. It removes from their soul the thought that they are its citizens. When a society oppresses someone, when a society denies someone their rights, the government should embrace and support them. But the Dalits, tribal corrmunities and minorities in India have never had any such 'luxury', instead the government unleashes the worst kind of violence, turning victims into refugees in their own land.
Jeyen Rani, New Delhi

Ashok Mitra
In the last phase of his life Ashok Mitra was involved with the journal 'Arek Rokom' and truly an all together different personality in the regimented party to which he belonged and loved. Born in Dacca, erstwhile East Bengal where he lived for two decades and completed graduation, also influenced by progressive ideas and thus his communist journey began he remained an ardent lover of Dacca once noted for education, simple but refined living, cultural finesse, a good blend of religiosity and modem ideas and even today persons who had Dacca origins feel proud and admire. From Dacca he came to Calcutta, literature used to be his first love, could not get admission to Economics post-graduation, shifted to Benaras Hindu University and completed, taught for some times in Lucknow university and then to the Netherlands, completed doctorate with Jan Tinbergen on 'The share of wages in national income'. Later he taught at the Delhi School of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, international assignments and involved with Government of India in various capacities rising to become the Chief Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi cushy jobs left when he saw repression in Bengal in 1972 unleashed. Throughout his stint in economics and as an economist he remained committed to state planning, income Distribution and other democratic aspects like expansion of federalism in terms of economic and political powers, in regard to contemporary GST he foresaw that there could be infringement on States' domain. He served in two regimes of Jyoti Basu from 1977 to 1986 as Finance Minister of Bengal but had the courage to resign over differences on the removal of S M Morshed from the post of Power Commissioner and other salient issues affecting the vested Left Front government and though remained in the party but a great dissenter when he saw party moving from dedication to public causes and democratic ideas such was his dedication and courage blatantly honest and with fierce independence the like of which not to be seen these days in any circles. Really an authentic protege of Marxism for human emancipation and realisation of dreams and hopes in this unequal world he never felt shy to call 'spade a spade'. Behind his dry but clear political exterior he was essentially a soft and warm human being full of zeal and energy and interested in all subjects under the sun, cordial to all and as a true Bengalee loved Bengal and Calcutta, cultures, food habits, ways of life, cricket, football, science, crime thrillers and citizens' love for 'Adda', debates and journeys to other lands, his entire life pulsated with energy, vibrance and radiance that was once the Bengali Bhadralok AM always considered himself more a communist than a bhadralok. Besides political tracts he was at ease writing on Begum Akhtar, Kanan Devi et al, his prose whether in his mother tongue and English was culturally refined, elegant and fiercely original. Who can ever forget his account 'Apila Chapila' [A Prattler's Tale : Bengal, Marxism and Governance'] and his columns in EPW under his name AM in the sixties and seventies delightful to read for his creativity, vast canvas and extreme depth of ideas. His marriage with Gauri was blissful, wife passed away ten years back people who visited his home fascinated by a rich library, cordiality and welcome. It will not be improper to say that Ashok Mitra was the symbol of enlightenment and renaissance, from his formative years till end he bravely faced life though frail looking with visual and hearing problems later and contributed his most as a public person, India must not forget this brilliant treasure from Bengal's soil. Life is a great journey full of thorns but if one is focused and determined to have his/her own way one can achieve mission. Dr Ashok Mitra played his part well with childlike simplicity and maximum grace. Hundred salutes to this polymath who remained connected with human concerns and living in this age of technology and post ideology.
Parthasarathy Sen, New Delhi

'Raazi' is avowedly a patriotic film about the significant role of a Kashmiri Muslim woman spy (Sehmat played by Alia Bhatt) working for the Indian intelligence in Islamabad, during the Bangladeshi war of liberation. India led by PM Mrs Indira Gandhi took the decision to aid and assist the forces confronting the Pakistani military in the then East Pakistan. The story is based on the precept of patriotism and now the concept of 'Watan' or 'Mulk' is above everything, for Hindu and Muslim alike whether Indian or Pakistani. In the present milieu of communal hate and mistrust of the minority, it is unthinkable for the Indian State to engage a Kashmiri Muslim spy and heavily depend on the information provided by her. The theme, story and thrilling suspense of the film—every aspect of the film is superb. Gulzar's daughter Meghna Gulzar has scripted and directed the film in a most subdued, sensible and balanced way and Gulzar himself has provided the inimitably superb musical lyrics. Alia Bhatt as Sehmat, Vicky Kaushal as her Pakistani husband Iqbal and Jaideep Ahlawat as Sehmat's handler (or trainer) put in absolutely stellar performances. The film is doing very well at the box office. It is the same public it seems which voted for the Opposition in the recent elections. The film has been banned in Pakistan. It's difficult to comprehended why the Indian censor board has not banned ‘Raazi’ yet.
Aurobindo Ghose,
Human Rights Activist, Delhi

Vol. 50, No.51, June 24 - 30, 2018