In the first ever group-acquittal since the Trinamool Congress (TMC) came to power in 2011, as many as 10 political prisoners were acquitted on Tuesday night by a Ranaghat district court in south Bengal.
All the activists were allegedly working for the outlawed CPI(Maoist) in Nadia District in south-central Bengal and had been languishing in various jails for nearly 10 years. They were charged under the Arms Act of 1959 and various sections of the IPC. However, none of the charges was established and thus all the activists were acquitted by the (Addl.) District and Sessions Judge, Rupanjana Chakravarty.
Ajit Chakravarty, Pradeep Chatterjee, Lata Murmu, Gupi Das, Haidar Ali Chowdhury, Paresh Tirkey and Mongal Mondal were released. “Rina Sarkar, Prasanta Das and Aloke Debnath got bail in other cases but the release orders have not reached the jail authorities,” said Prasanta Haldar, a rights activist, representing Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP).
The oldest among the acquitted activists, 72-year-old Ajit Chakravarty, was once acquitted by the Left Front government soon after it came to power in 1977. In fact, Left Front had withdrawn all charges against the political prisoners after assuming power, when Mr. Chakravarty was released.
Before coming to power the TMC government made similar promises but withdrew cases against only four political prisoners. While more than 50 political prisoners were released on bail, cases were not withdrawn. In fact, TMC even retracted the status of a political prisoner, granted by the Left Front government, to a detainee, by passing an amendment Section 24 of the West Bengal Correctional Services Act of 1992 passed by the earlier Left Front government.
The West Bengal government has curbed “the rights of political prisoners by making an amendment to Section 24,” wrote Professor Amit Bhattacharya, an observer of Naxalite movement in the State, in one of his papers. Mr. Haldar said that the government is now fighting “tooth and nail” in the Supreme Court to get the status of political prisoners granted to some of the alleged Maoist activists by the Calcutta High Court revoked.
“Some of the activists like Gaur Chakravarty or Sadanala Ramakrishna (still in jail) were arrested before the 1992 Act was amended and now the State government is even trying to withdraw the few facilities provided to a political prisoner,” said Mr. Haldar.