Friday, April 11, 2008

Release political prisoners without delay

The preparatory committee for the release of political prisoners adopted the following resolutions at the inaugural conference held in Delhi last week. Extracts from the resolutions are reproduced here

Release of Political prisoners and their rights: The Preparatory Committee towards forming the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners demands that all social and political activists arrested, incarcerated in the prisons, and who have been working for the betterment of the greater common good, for a society where people will not be discriminated or oppressed or mistreated or exploited, have put the interest of the society, the general toiling masses above their personal interest should be declared as political prisoners.

Though the state may have differences with the aims, aspirations and methods of struggle of those arrested, we believe that they must enjoy the special status and rights of political prisoners. These rights may not have been accorded to them through the Indian constitution but history has always recognized such people as a group and society at large has often campaigned for their rights and release.

We condemn the method of illegal detention of the prisoner, so that the state can without impunity hold the prisoner hostage as part of its designs to terrorize the people who are dissenting against the policies of the state. Moreover, illegal detention is an easy way for the state to resort to killing the detained and later declaring a story of 'encounter'. Further the state also denies the right of the prisoner to a lawyer of his/her choice. In many states the lawyers who take up the case of the political prisoner are threatened by the police and even they are also charged with cases of abetting terrorism. We demand the state to refrain from threatening and harassing those who come forward to provide bail for the political prisoners. In a democracy any one arrested, be it a criminal or otherwise is deemed to be innocent until proved guilty and therefore must have a right to a lawyer. Even so-called terrorists must have legal counsels.

While maintaining the unconditional release of political prisoners, we also demand that when they are held in the prison, they be granted their rights to be together, right to information in the form of books, periodicals and literature, to nutritious food and health facilities.

We unequivocally denounce torture and humiliation on any prisoner as a means to break their will. We condemn the sexual violence that is being used on women by the state as a tool to break the morale of the women political prisoners. Narco analysis is being used as an instrument of torture, of late, on prisoners including political prisoners. We condemn such barbaric practices of forcing someone to give evidence against him / her. We demand that such unscientific and inhuman practices be stopped immediately. Torture should be stopped. The International Covenant on Torture and the safe guards that it provides is also applicable to India and she cannot afford to shy away from upholding it.

Abolish Death Penalty: We the people assembled here towards convening a Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners strongly oppose the Indian state’s continuing policy of death penalty ostensibly as a deterrent to prevent crime. When the world community has repealed the law conferring death penalty calling it barbaric and archaic an instrument in redeeming the human in the human being, India, which is espousing the values of neo-liberalism and would want to be part of the international community, is a signatory to the International Covenant on Human Rights. And yet in the last one year there has been a spate of verdicts given by the court which upheld the right of the state to take ones’ life as a measure to restore ‘order’ in the society.

For India, which claims to be a civilized society, the state’s right to take away the life of the individual so as to ensure an order, which is based on exploitation, domination, oppression and mistreatment cannot bring a society free from all forms of violence and exploitation. Already more than 230 countries of the world community have put an end to capital punishment. But in India death penalty is synonymous with a ‘strong state’. It is often equated to the national security and integrity of the country, the only way to deal with all kinds of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ ‘threats’ as has been claimed by government after government at the center.

But experience has shown that death penalty has become a tool of political vendetta indulged in by the powers that be and has hardly contributed in improving the law and order or preventing the social evils from repeating. It is high time that this barbaric punitive instrument should be repealed once and for all from our penal code. We demand the state to immediately repeal capital punishment as it does not address any social, political malady.

War against Terror a hoax: The Preparatory Committee towards forming the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners condemns in the strongest words the so called war against terror by the UPA government—an alibi to crush all forms of protests against the anti-people policies facilitated through the process of liberalization, privatization and globalization. It is through these policies that the ruling class in India is striving to be the able trusted junior partner of US imperialism in South Asia. Under the garb of the war against terror, the government is using all possible legislations to crush the genuine protests of the vast sections of the masses. Each state within India is given the authority to enact their own internal security legislations. All punitive measures are used to reign in the rising people’s discontent with the pro-market policies of the government that have made a few pockets rich while the vast majority of people remain impoverished driven to subhuman existence.

Under the garb of the so-called war against terror, the state has resorted to vigilante gangs like the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, the Sulpha in Assam, the death squads of Punjab, the Ikwan-ul-Muslimin in Jammu & Kashmir, the Green Tigers, Narsa Cobras in Andhra Pradesh, the Nagrik Suraksha Dal in Jharkhand and the Harmad in West Bengal. We strongly condemn these fascist designs of the state to violently suppress all forms of people's dissent by arming private state sponsored lumpen gangs and so-called other counter-insurgency groups in Jammu and Kashmir and other regions. Mass rape of women has been a tactic resorted to by the state against all forms of political dissent. It is the same private gangs with the active support of the police and the paramilitary—such as the IRB, the CRPF, the BSF, the Rashtriya Rifles, Assam Rifles etc. that has resorted to rape as a state policy to deal with political movements fighting for their right to self-determination, minority rights, against displacement, against all forms of inhuman exploitation.

Today anyone who dare say against the development policy of the state or organise people to protest uncompromisingly against such policies of loot and plunder are dubbed terrorists or as the threat to internal security. We condemn in the strongest words the tendency of the state to deal all questions of socio-political and economic significance as a law and order problem.

Imprisonment of the activists of such peoples’ movements and clamping down on such movements in the interest of national security has seen the worst forms of atrocities in the subcontinent that would bring back the memories of the struggles of the anti-colonial days. We demand the government to scrap all anti-people laws that have given blanket powers to the executive of the state.

It is only in this way that the interests of the people can be best represented. And it is only this way that a safe, self-reliant and secure subcontinent can be made possible.

Improve Prison Conditions: We the people who are assembled here from various parts of the subcontinent are concerned about the prison conditions. Prisons have virtually become the seats of torture and humiliation of the worst kinds.

Prisoners from the Muslim community or Kashmiri Muslim prisoners, the Kamtapuris, the people of Manipur, the Assamese, Tamil nationalists, the Maoists, Nagas, Bodos, the people of Punjab etc. have been facing the worst kinds of humiliation and torture in the prisons. Apart from the fact that the prison conditions have been highly communal against the minorities and Kashmiri Muslims there has hardly been any attempt to improve the general conditions of prisons. Members of religious minorities are not allowed to practice their religion inside prisons. Along with these are the prisoners arrested as Maoists and those arrested from various nationality movements face the worst kinds of torture. India resorts some of the worst forms of torture methods.

The state further creates separate wards to isolate these prisoners so as to break their political will. It never recognizes these prisoners as political prisoners. They are denied their basic rights in the prison. Their rights to books, to associate within the prison, are all brutally denied. The jail manual is never followed when it comes to the food given to the prisoners. Overcrowding in the prison has become a normal feature in the prisons in the sub continent so much so that prisoners sit through the night without having any space to lie down.

During winters they are not given proper winter wear. The overall conditions within the prison are the worst when it comes to hygiene. We strongly condemn this communal and authoritarian attitude of the state to deal with political dissent. The way a state runs its prison and prison conditions is also a reflection of its commitment for human values and human civilization.

Lift the Ban on SIMI: SIMI is a student organization in India, working independently among the students in the various campuses of India. It found its principles in the Quran, the life and teaching of Prophet Mohammad. The members of this organisation are guided by strong moral principles and values.

The BJP government banned SIMI. That was a tribute to show their commitment to America after and its proclaimed “war against terrorism”. After the ban thousands of SIMI activists had been put in prison. Most of them were studying in medical and engineering colleges; others also had good academic qualifications in graduation and post-graduation. Thousands were expelled from their workplace with the allegation that they were SIMI activists or were funding SIMI or had previous connections with SIMI. And that continues even today. People arrested on other charges by organization are involved in illegal activities.

The fist ban came into force on September 27th 2001. Subsequently the ban had been renewed after the tenure of every ban period. So far the ban had been renewed four times. No concrete reasons have been proved so far against SIMI for justifying the ban. But even then the ban continues. No student organisation of the country had to fight as much as SIMI had to in the various courts of the country including the apex court, in the last few years. Altogether four tribunals were constituted, one each within every period of the ban. The findings of the first tribunal are still pending in the Supreme Court. And the appeal of the second tribunal order has been challenged in the Delhi High Court. The third appeal about the third tribunal has also been pending in the Supreme Court. Because of these pending cases the Supreme Court judges, in the third appeal, referred the entire matter to be heard by a larger bench. However, that too is pending in the Supreme Court.

The democracy in India had completely failed to tender proper justice to this banned organisation. Unending legal processes have denied the organisation of its valid and fundamental rights. We call up on the Government

· to stop further banning of Students’ Islamic organisations.

· to decide upon the pending appeals filed in the Supreme Court against the decisions of the tribunals immediately.

· to assure fundamental rights to the organisation through meaningful remedies assured in the Indian constitution.

Right to Read, Sell, Buy and Keep all Forms if Political Literature: At present bail to 11 youth and students was rejected for possessing some books. In Chandrapur, Maharashtra a concerted effort has been going on to arrest and detain publishers as well as readers of political literature. Sunita from Daanish publishers, Delhi was arrested in October 2006 along with Veera Sathidar from her book stall at Chandrapur. Though she is only a publisher, she was alleged to have Maoist links and many false cases were foisted on them.

Recently a young publisher from Kolhapur along with 3 others was arrested because they were publishing/ selling progressive literature. After that 10 members of Deshbhakti Yuva Manch, Arun Bhelke and others were arrested under unlawful from their homes for possessing Naxalite literature and. Activities Prevention Act. Their bail was rejected.

This house not only demands their unconditional release but we also uphold the right to freedom of expression and right to write, publish, read, sell or purchase any type of literature.

Stop torture through unscientific tests like, Narco Analysis, Polygraph and similar third degree methods: Of late the state is increasingly resorting to Narco Analysis, Poligraph, Brain Mapping and similar unscientific tests on the accused persons including political prisoners/ accused as a part of investigations. This is nothing but using third degree method apart from abuse of science. It is also not out of place to mention that many countries around the world have stopped using such methods as they are inhuman. Therefore we demand such third degree methods should not be used in future.

Release Prisoners of War: The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners takes note of the Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh’s statement made in April, 2006 that Maoists constitute the greatest threat to internal security of India.

The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners takes note of the fact that civil war situation prevails in our country where Maoists have been fighting against the present Indian state for social-economic transformation and also where people of some nationalities have been fighting for the realization of the right of self-determination. This Committee resolves that persons arrested on both sides – the movements and the state security forces -- should be treated properly as human beings and be regarded as ‘prisoners of war’ in accordance with the Geneva Convention to which India is a signatory.

Abolish special camp for Political Prisoners in Tamil Nadu: The conference on political Prisoners resolves to demand the Tamil Nadu Government should abolish immediately the Chinglepet special camp for Srilankan refugees, a shadow prison, and all the inmates should be sent to the ordinary camps for refugees.

We demand Tamil Nadu Government to stop all kinds of discrimination in granting general amnesty premature release, remission and parole facilities.

We demand Tamil Nadu Government not to impose TADA on prisoners arrested after its lapse. The TADA cases imposed on the five farmers of Madurai district in August 2007 should be withdrawn immediately.

Release Political prisoners in Gujarat under the Notorious case DCB-6: It is resolved that all the political prisoners in Gujarat especially those arrested for allegedly torching a train compartment in Godhra be released and prisoners under the case DCB-6 should also be released and people who were displaced in the post-Godhra genocide be allowed to return to their homes and lands.

Lift ban against ban under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act: All the parties, organizations listed in the schedule of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act banned should be lifted

Lift the ban on People’s organizations in Orissa: The ban imposed on seven mass organizations including `Damana Pratirodha Manch’ should be lifted by Government of Orissa.

Release unconditionally Sitinga A. Magli and Moninga Kondha of Orissa: Two young adivasis Sitinga A. Magli and Moninga Kondha (Tribals) who have been convicted for life on wrong identification have been languishing in prison for the last 5 years (appeal pending in High Court) should be released unconditionally.

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