Angela Harish Sontakke is a 45 year old political undertrial prisoner facing charges of being a Maoist party member who has been incarcerated since April 2011. Most of this period has been spent in Byculla Jail at Mumbai. Eight out of her 11 co-accused have been released on bail. Angela herself has been acquitted in 15 of the 16 additional cases foisted on her and has been granted bail in the 16thcase. She has been denied bail in Sessions Case No. 655 of 2011 under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (a law akin to the draconian TADA & POTA). A highly educated lady, she has a double M.A. and has taught in various schools and colleges in Maharashtra.
Angela requested an urgent mulaqat, so, Maharukh Adenwalla and Susan Abraham, both lawyers, visited Byculla Jail on April 08, 2015 at 12 noon. According to a press release by Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), during mulaqat Angela informed that on April 1, 2015, male jail staff arrived at Barrack No. 3, women’s barrack (where Angela was lodged) with cables. When the inmates made enquiries, they were informed that CCTV cameras were going to be installed inside their barracks. Angela and the other inmates protested that this would be a clear invasion of their privacy since women inmates change their clothes, apply medicines (as skin infections are rampant in the overcrowded condition of the jail) and in the height of summer without any fans, women use minimum clothes while sleeping in the barracks.
Angela also asked that they should be shown the notice allowing CCTVs inside the barracks. On 2nd April 2015, after bandhi, at around 6.30 p.m. about 10-12 jail staff came to Barrack No. 3 and took Angela away saying that she was being kept in a “separate” cell – obviously as punishment for opposing the CCTV installation. Angela protested by starting a hunger strike that evening itself.