“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 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 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.
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.
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).
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.
“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.
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.