On December 10th, the British Columbia Federation of Labour expressed their support of Comrade G.N. Saibaba who is being murdered by the indian state, writing:
"Dr. Saibaba is an indigenous rights activist who is currently imprisoned for being a leading voice defending the rights of adivasis (tribals), dalits (formerly called untouchables), and religious minorities in India. He is a person living with a physical disability and his living conditions in prison are of international concern."
In India, Comrade Kobad Ghandy has been released from prison on bail at the 12th of December.
In this sense, we publish an english translation of a document on the situation of the political prisoners in India, which was sent to us and published in german in May 2017 for the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari Struggle:
The situation of political prisoners in India
Written on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari Struggle in India, this article is based on presentations given at the beginning of the year on the Day of Action for Freedom of Political Prisoners in India and provides some information about the People's War in India and the prisoners that were not spread far.
In the recent months, the issue of political prisoners worldwide has returned to the focus of the revolutionary movement, in a moment where imperialism and its lackeys respond more and more with repression of the peoples of the world.
This article will not present much general information about the People's War in India, but will focus mainly on the issue and the situation of political prisoners in India. The question of political prisoners in India has not received much attention so far, which was also due to a lack of accessible material on the subject. However, now there are some very extensive insights into the development of the People's War in India and the situation of political prisoners in English available (further information is available at this link: http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPIMIB/index.htm ). At the beginning, it is still important to give a brief overview of the current situation in India.
The general situation in India
With a population of over 1.3 billion, India is the second most populated country in the world. Out of these 1.3 billion people, 70% work for 20 rupees a day, which is less than 30 euro cents, and the Adivasi and Dalit (part of the untouchable Caste) endure especially poor and backward conditions. They form the vast majority of the poor and landless peasants and the lowest layers of the working class. Although India is a country with a great wealth of natural resources, due to the many ore deposits, including bauxite, which is used for the production of aluminium, it also has large forests for the timber industry and fertile land for agriculture. These very circumstances alone make it an object of desire for the imperialists.
The Communist Party of India (maoist) emerged on September 21, 2004 through the Merger of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the CPI (ML) [People's War], on basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. It is executing a new democratic revolution in India and fighting for what they call a democratic, sovereign, federal People's Republic, achieved through the People's War. The armed forces of the two organizations, the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) of the MCC and the People's Guerrilla Army of the CPI (ML) [People's War] were grouped under the name of the PLGA into an armed force, that is estimated to be more then 10,000 fighters strong. In 2014, the CPI (maoist) united with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Naxalbari, the name remained the same and it became possible to intensify the People's War in the southern states.
In the areas in which it is active, the CPI (maoist) builds the New Power. The main areas are located in the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal and since 2014 in the southern border region of Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu. In the regions of the New Power, the structures of the Indian state are destroyed and the authority of the feudal lords and tribal elders is smashed; the administration of the territories is taken over by the Revolutionary People's Committees.
The People's War and the building of the New Power are in direct and absolute contradiction to the interests of imperialism and its Indian lackeys, as the People's War fights them. To smash it, the Indian government launched Operation Green Hunt in 2009. For this gigantic extermination campaign, the Indian state spends billions of rupees and mobilizes a gigantic amount of troops, so far more than 500,000 mercenary units have been sent to the areas where the People's War unfolds, another 50,000 were planned until the very end. The Airforce has also been using drones for quite some time and the plan to use air strikes is becoming ever more concrete. The counterrevolutionary forces and gangs resort repeatedly to rape, murder, destruction of homes, plunder, slaughter of farm animals, destruction of crops, etc. This makes clear why the operation got the name "war against the people". The Indian state tries to compensate for and supplement these brutal methods with the distribution of free goods to parts of the people.
It has to be noted that since 2004, the Party, the army and the people have fought hard for the accomplishments of the New Power with some 2,500 party members, militants and masses murdered by the reaction.
Situation of the prisoners
In the Indian jails, 70% of the inmates are in custody and not convicted, which is the world's highest quota, in total numbers this affects 300,000 people. In total, more than 418,000 prisoners are in Indian prisons. The prisons in Uttar Pradesh are a negative example of the situation in prisons in India. The local Prisons are chronically overcrowded, with the state housing a fifth of the total number of Indian prisoners in 67 prisons, which was 88,000 in 2014. This number of prisoners continues to increase steadily, so their number increased by spring 2016 to 133,349 inmates. In some cases, the prisons are even overcrowded by up to 67%. Of those in custody, 60% are in the lower castes.
Although punishments were officially abolished in 1995, it is still partly the case that prisoners are humiliated with draconian, medieval punishments such as flogging. However, as prisoners' resistance to these conditions increases, on April 3 and 4 last year, in 2016, Uttar Pradesh had two consecutive prison riots, in which a prison warden was taken hostage by prisoners and a deputy prison warden was beaten up, the inmates wanted to emphasize their demands, which turned against beatings by overseers and bad food. There were 67 clashes in prisons in India in 2010, compared to 255 in 2014. At the same time, the number of escapes increased from 2 to 16, and since 2014 there have been three shootings in Indian prisons for the first time. (Further information can be found here: https://indiapoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/ )
Now a few words on the situation of female prisoners in India. The proportion of female prisoners in India has remained constantly at 4% of all inmates since 1985, meaning the number has steadily increased with male prisoners. By the end of 2014, that meant 17,681 women prisoners. In the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, female prisoners increased by 18, 16 and 14 percent, respectively. Probably these are not coincidentally all areas in which the CPI (maoist) is very active. Many women live in prisons with their children, which has over 1,800 children in prisons in India. These children usually have so little access to education, according to a BBC report, that they sometimes do not know the difference between an elephant, a needle and a tractor.
Indian women's prison
To get an idea of the scale of the repression against the political prisoners, here are a few figures published by the Indian Interior Ministry. Between 2008 and 2014, 13,657 people were arrested and accused of being part of the Maoist movement. That is an annual average of 2276 and almost 200 people per month. However, most of those arrested are landless and poor peasants who support the movement, or have no connection with it at all and are arrested with fake charges.
To show the system and brutality of the Indian state against political prisoners, here are some examples of the treatment of political prisoners, which are also found in the documents of the CPI (maoist).
Comrade Janu reported in May 2014 on her arrest. In September 2011, she brought a comrade from the guerrilla zone, that should have gotten medical treatment, and was arrested there after the betrayal of a police informant by a police action involving about 800 police officers. The police transported her through various police stations where she was beaten and interrogated; among others she was tortured in a police camp with blows and electric shocks. The comrade, who was arrested with her, was tied to a tree in front of her eyes despite his illness, beaten and drilled through the neck. In her protest and attempt to help the comrade, she herself was beaten again, at one point she was also shown an olive uniform and threatened that she would be dressed in it and then shot. This common practice is called "Fake Encounter". Prisoners are getting dressed in a uniform of the Maoists, either before or after they are killed. The reaction seeks to cover up its cruel murders of innocent people by publicly saying that they killed Maoists in an alleged battle, hence the name "Fake Encounter".
An Adivasi, who was acquitted of all charges in 2014 after four years, reports that there are rooms in the Jagdalpur jail for isolation torture without light and ventilation. He also reports how other captured comrades were beaten, insulted and humiliated by Nambardars, who are imprisoned lumpen and under the protection of the prison authorities.
The example of Comrade Sheila shows how the reaction keeps the comrades in jail without conviction. The comrade was arrested in October 2006 in Rourkela, Odisha. After she was released on bail in July 2007, she was arrested by Jharkhands police in front of the jail and taken to Jharkhand, where she was charged with a number of alleged cases. Two of these allegations were attributed to her were cases of Maoist violence, which took place at the time she was in jail. After being released on bail in four of the cases, she was arrested again in February 2012, this time by the Dhanbad Railway Police. In January 2013, she was arrested one more time, this time by police of Bokaro with a new trumped up case. Most recently, she was arrested in Bokaro on November 5, 2014 and taken to Odisha Court.
Another case is Comrade Nirmala, who has 149 cases attached to her in different districts, of which she has already been acquitted of 120 and spent more than seven years in jail. With this method, the detainees are kept in custody all the time, without being actually and finally convicted, which explains the high proportion of detainees in custody.
Political prisoners in India are partially struggle by organised hunger strikes, with hundreds of people, for example, joining an unlimited hunger strike across the country on 30 January of 2014. Demanded were the approval of release on bail, fast and fair trials and much more. Hunger strikes are also organised to enforce daily prison demands in terms of treatment and care of the prisoners.
An encouraging report from 2014 is the organised escape of Comrades of the Communist Party of India (maoist) from Chaibasa Prison, in West Singhbhum in Jharkand. On 16th of January 2011 there already was an escape of three comrades of the party who broke out of their cells and climbed over the prison walls. The escape resulted in increased security in all prisons in the state of Jharkand. On December 9, 2014, the second successful escape of comrades was carried out. At Chaibasa Prison, at the time of the escape, there were 150 comrades from various ranks, party members, members of the revolutionary peasant committee, the popular militia and sympathetic villagers. A group of 20 comrades decided that it was much better to fight for freedom and die than to endure this terrible torture. After they had decided to escape, they organized this escape and examined the circumstances. They planned the action on a day when there was a large market next to the jail the week after the increased security measures in West Singhbhum were withdrawn due to the assembly of electoral delegations. That day, they waited until the group and other prisoners were sent back to jail and the three escorts left the prison yard. As they left the van, they overpowered the guards, while other prisoners who were in cahoots with the police attempted to obstruct them. In the fight with the guards, comrades threw chilli powder into their eyes and took their weapons from them. After opening the prison gate, they retreated across the market where they could not be spotted by the police. Then they ran two nights and one day until they met comrades and joined them. At the escape, five comrades were overpowered by guards at the jail, two were shot and the other three were tortured, beaten and returned to jail with serious injuries. The reaction dispelled their anger at the successful action of the comrades in the masses who were celebrating the news, many of whom were beaten up under the pretext of searches. Subsequently, the repression against alleged Maoist prisoners was tightened, they were tortured in jail and books taken from them. In response, they boycotted Independence Day, were tortured even more and received death threats from imprisoned lumpen. This jailbreak has clearly shown that no matter how secure the ruling classes make their prisons, they can never tie the revolutionaries' urge for freedom and certainly not prevent them from participating in the revolution.
Following some examples of well-known revolutionary political prisoners in India, who have been campaigned for their release internationally.
One of the most known is the university professor and chairman of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, Prof. G.N. Saibaba. He was dragged into a car by special forces in 2014 and kidnapped, only because of his relentless family the police had to admit that they had arrested him. He is accused of having connections to the CPI (maoist). He is 90% disabled, sitting in a wheelchair and regularly takes medication that was denied him in jail, causing his health to deteriorate so much that he was released on bail. In 2016, he was again arrested and detained and later released on bail. On 7 March, Saibaba was sentenced to life imprisonment. Reason for this is the repression law "Unlawful Activities Preventions Act", short UAPA. Basically, a flexible clause under which all activities can be indicted, which are directed against the Indian state, on the pretext that they would jeopardize his "integrity" and "sovereignty". For the seriously ill comrade this is his death sentence. The old Indian state wants to deliberately murder him, which was recently shown by the refusal of vital medicines. Once again, international solidarity is very high and the demand for freedom is growing louder and louder.
Comrade Ajith in the hands of reaction
Another important prisoner is Comrade Ajith, whose civil name is Murali Kannampilly, who is a significant cadre for the revolutionary movement in India and the Communist Party of India (maoist). He is from Irumpanam, Ernakulam County, Kerala, and is the son of a former diplomat who also served as India's ambassador to China, Kannampilly K. Menon. In the early 1970s, Ajith began his revolutionary work while studying at the Regional Engineering College in Kozhikode, Kerala. A pivotal event in the comrade's life was the torture and subsequent assassination in prison of P. Rajan, with whom he studied together. On the basis of the state of emergency, the comrade was arrested in 1976 by special units of the police of Kerala, the reason was an attack by Maoists on a police barracks in the district Kozhikode. He survived the notorious torture camp in Kakkayan on the outskirts of Kozhikode and was subsequently transferred to Kannur Central Prison. From there he was released in 1977 in the wake of the lifting of the state of emergency. Following this, the comrade became a full-time revolutionary. In the four decades of his service to the revolution, the comrade achieved many contributions, both in theory and in practice. He only cared for the oppressed, was friendly and always fought against egoism – this is how his companions describe him. Political economy and the Dalit's living conditions are central issues for him, which is particularly evident in his work "Land, Caste, Servitude", which is an analysis of rural social relations in Kerala. The comrade is the author of at least five books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, including feminism and the national issue in India. In the four decades as a member of a banned organization, the comrade was not photographed once, at least this is said about him, that is what made it possible, for example, to travel to the 1984 meeting of the Internationalist Revolutionary Movement in France and to accept tasks for it in relation to the revolution in India and Nepal. The comrade also did not fight shy from the rigours of revolutionary life when he began to suffer from coronary heart disease. Only a few years ago he had to undergo an open-heart surgery under the conditions of illegality. On May 9, 2015, the comrade was sent to Morya Hospital in Talegaon Dubhade, near Pune, to be treated further, there he was arrested and deported by the so-called Anti-Terrorism Unit of the Maharashtra Police Department, along with Ismail Hamza. The unacceptable conditions of his abduction and the denial of necessary medical treatment meanwhile attracted wide international attention. For example, Professor GN Saibaba, Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT, Professor Judith Butler of UCLA, Professor Partha Chatterjee of Columbia University and other intellectuals, writers, journalists and human rights activists are calling for his release. International revolutionary forces also began a broad international campaign for his release following his arrest.
Comrade Kobad Ghandy
The last comrade we want to write about is Kobad Ghandy. He was arrested in September 2009 and got over twenty cases, mainly under the pretext of the so-called UAPA. For example, Kobad Ghandy is accused of having delivered a riotous speech at the University of Punjab. He himself wrote a letter on November 10, 2015, commenting on some of the allegations against him, to be cited here:
"Just today, in response to an RTI, I was sent a copy of the Jharkhand FIR. It seems, after my arrest in 2009, my name was added to this case which says a mob of about 500 unknown persons attacked a police camp in Bokaro in 2007. This is the first time I have heard about this attack, let alone be a part of it. That I have never been to Bokaro/Jharkhand in my life is another matter. No FIR was put against me when the incident occurred. And now the Jharkhand Police comes to arrest me nine years after the incident.
In Andhra Pradesh the police resorted to the method of making out a fake confession (in Telugu, a language I do not know), and on that basis adding my name to about 15 cases from the 1990s to 2005. No such ‘confession’ is even pretended to by the Jharkhand Police to add my name to this case. The legality of this is ques-tionable.
The same is about the West Bengal case (I have not yet received the FIR) and the Patiala and Surat cases. In the Patiala case, two persons apparently saw an unknown person giving an ‘inflammatory’ speech on the grounds of Punjab Univerity (they don’t mention the language and I don’t know Punjabi) while on their morning walk. At that time no FIR was put against any ‘unknown’ person. But an FIR was put against me in February 2010, five months after I had been in Tihar. Yet, without any evidence and mere hearsay serious charges have been put.
And because the Delhi LG has put 268 on me, I cannot attend these cases till the Delhi case is over, taking away my constitutional right to speedy trials. None of these cases has even begun after six years in jail.
Now, once the Delhi case is over, I will have to face serial trials—and that too at the age of 69 with serious heart, kidney and arthiritus problems. The cardiologist seriously considered I may need a pace-maker if my pulse continued to drop below 40.
Though the Delhi trial is nearing its end, the learned judge, in September 2015, considered my health conditions so serious as to grant me three months interim bail. Let alone avail of this bail to get proper treatment (impossible in jail), I will now be taken from one court/jail to another all over the country, which is nothing but an atempt to kill me."
Kobad Ghandy has since been acquitted of several charges, but must still be in prison because of the remaining.
In conclusion, no matter in which country imperialism and its lackeys act against the struggling peoples, it is the duty of the revolutionary movement of all countries to fight against this repression. The Indian comrades repeatedly show their determination against the existing exploitative and oppressive conditions that imperialism in India creates against the people, to fight and to further develop the People's War. It is important to show them the solidarity of the revolutionaries worldwide, because they are united in the fight against imperialism and its lackeys. The People's War in India will continue to develop, it can not be locked behind bars or drowned in blood. In the end, the Indian people will sweep away their oppressors and build a new India.