Shri S.C Jamir,
State of Maharashtra
We, the undersigned, are seriously concerned about the health of 13 under trial prisoners, allegedly Naxalites or Naxal sympathizers, in Nagpur jail who have been on hunger strike since the 7th of April, 2008. The issues for which they have launched the hunger strike are serious and urgent. They have already petitioned the state authorities drawing attention to the following issues:
• The police have been using Sec. 110 CrPC (Security for good behavior from habitual offenders) to re-arrest those who have been acquitted by the judiciary, on the grounds that they are accused of abetting “Naxalites” in commission of crimes. Already two such cases have happened. Jayakka was re-arrested on 29/3/2008 after being acquitted and Mallesh Sailu was also re-arrested on release on 1/4/2008. Both should be unconditionally released.
• The Maharashtra police have been branding social organizations and activists as Naxalites and Naxalite sympathizers. Many are being falsely accused as Naxal sympathizers and put into jail and also being denied bail. These accusations on social activists should be withdrawn and they should be unconditionally released.
• All undertrial Naxalite prisoners should be immediately removed from Solitary Confinement. A common general Barrack should be provided for such undertrials.
• Prison interview timings should be extended to 30 minutes; advocates should be allowed to have open interviews (without grill) and eatables should be permitted to be given at interviews. A facility for telephones should be given in the Barracks.
• All undertrial prisoners (especially accused Naxalites & IPC 302 prisoners) should not be compulsory made to wear the prison dress.
• The Draconian CrPC 110 should be scrapped which has become a tool by the Police Department to harass the common people.
Each of the issue raised needs immediate intervention. These prisoners are not ordinary criminals or law offenders. They are political prisoners who have been intentionally incarcerated because of their political beliefs and social activism. Branding activists and their organizations is a deliberate ploy of the state to spread false accusations against those who espouse a different ideology or take up matters of social concern. Incarcerating them, re-arresting them, placing them in solitary confinement, refusing them proper interview time are systematic ways of punishing them for their political beliefs and their social engagement. We condemn the refusal of the state to recognize these prisoners as ‘political prisoners’. This violation of prisoners’ rights becomes a way of punishing them for their political beliefs even before they are brought to trial.
What is shocking is that, while these 13 undertrials have been on hunger strike for the last twenty days, the jail authorities have refused to admit the situation. The issues raised are intrinsically related to miserable jail conditions, especially mistreatment of undertrials. It should be noted that the issues pertaining to facilities of under trials are very much within the United Nation’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (S. C, ‘Prisoners awaiting arrest or under trial’, clauses 84-93). An untried prisoner, by definition, is a prisoner who is awaiting trial and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Accordingly, such prisoners must be treated differently from convicted prisoners and cannot be kept in solitary confinement. They must be allowed the right to wear their own clothes, procure books and reading materials, consult doctors/dentists and also communicate freely with their families and lawyers. We demand that the jail authorities comply with established procedures and give under trial prisoners the facilities that are due to them as per the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners.
With each passing day, the condition of these 13 is turning extremely serious and grave. We urge you to intervene in this matter immediately and save their lives.
NOTE: The petition is hosted at petiononline.com. Kindly sign the the petition by clicking here so that it can be send to the Governor of Maharashtra.