DEHRA DUN, Sept. 23: An engineer-turned-journalist, Prashant Rahi, branded now as a Maoist, is cooling his heels in jail here on charges of having indulged in activities against the state. His daughter, an assistant film director in Mumbai and who believes he's innocent, is meanwhile waging a grim struggle to ensure he is allowed basic facilities in jail.
Rahi, a former Staff Correspondent of The Statesman, was arrested by the Haldwani police last December and has been denied bail since. The police booked him under sections 153 A and 124 A of the IPC for indulging in activities against the state and called him a Maoist, a description that both Rahi and his daughter dismiss. He has been denied bail by the court.
"We had enough evidence against Prashant which establishes not only his involvement in anti-State activities but also of being one of the masterminds," the SSP Haldwani, Mr PVK Prasad, had stated at the time of the arrest.
Police claim to have seized a laptop and Maoist literature in several languages from him. Police allege that Rahi is one of three Maoist kingpins in the state, and that his wife heads the women's wing of the outfit. "He is well-versed in English, Hindi, Marathi, Kumaoni and Garhwali languages and hence developed literature in different languages," the SSP had said.
Prosecution for treason has been launched against Rahi in the sessions court, and he has been shifted from Haldwani to Dehra Dun Jail. But Shikha Rahi, a Mumbai-based assistant film director, has come out strongly against the treatment meted out to her father. "My father had always worked for the welfare of the people and fought for their rights, " she said in conversation on phone. Ms. Rahi said he had been falsely implicated and been subjected to third-degree treatment by police.
Shikha, who is Rahi's daughter from his first marriage, has been assisting his defence. It is not only her, though, but several journalist friends who have come out in support. They raised the matter with the Uttarakhand goverment and the chief minister. However, Rahi has got no respite.
Rahi was born and brought up in Mumbai. He did his M.Tech from the Banaras Hindu University in UP and later took a job in Uttarakhand, which was then a part of UP. In 1994, he started to contribute to The Statesman. He joined the staff of the paper in 1995 and resigned in 2001. He then joined the people's movement against construction of the Tehri dam.