COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025
Date: 18 May 2015
CONDEMN THE FARCE OF A TRIAL SENTENCING FOR LIFE CHHATRADHAR MAHATO AND OTHERS ON TRUMPED UP CHARGES OF SEDITION!
RELEASE CHHATRADHAR MAHATO AND OTHERS IMMEDIATELY AND UNCONDITIONALLY!
On 12 May, the most visible face of the historic Lalgarh movement and people’s hero Chhatradhar Mahato along with Sukh Shanti Baskey, Sagan Murmu and Shambu Soren were given life imprisonment by Kaberi Basu, Additional Sessions Judge Fourth Court, Paschim Medinipur Vide S.T. case No. XLVI/March/2010 Lalgarh P.S. case No. 161/2009 dated 26.09.09 on the charge of waging war against the state. This was the first conviction under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in West Bengal. All of them were members of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), the forum that led the Lalgarh Movement in Jungle Mahal. Two other activists belonging to the organization Gana Pratirodh Manch (GPM), Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee, also given life sentence under the charges of sedition. All of them fought for the people’s rights; to make their life better.
Chhatradhar Mahato along with Sukh Shanti Baskey, Sagan Murmu and Shambu Soren as well as Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee were all booked on false charges in the previous Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led regime of the CPI (M) and have now been given life sentence by the present Mamata Banejee led Trinamool regime. One refuses to forget the fact that it was the Trinamul led by Mamata Banerjee which made the pledge to release all political prisoners during their election campaign. The strange irony is that the same Trinamool which had assumed power with the slogan of ‘change’ defeating the ‘left front’ has now completed the process of incarceration for life of those with whom they had shared the dais when they were not in power. This farce of a trial saw many government witnesses being declared ‘hostile’ and judges being replaced several times. As usual in many cases pertaining to political prisoners and too starkly in this particular case the Investigating Officer was marked by his absence for three long years under one pretext or the other and only when an arrest warrant was being contemplated by the court did he consented to descend before the court. This is a standard process of the perseverance and persistence of the lawful lawlessness that pervades judicial process, when it comes to political prisoners in the Indian subcontinent, thus prolonging the incarceration of under trial political prisoners for long periods.
Additional Sessions Judge Kaberi Basu took to believe the police story on face value as is revealed by the initial lines of her judgement: “The ball of the prosecution was set in motion by S.I. Prashanta Kumar Pathak of Lalgarh P.S. on 26-09-09 when he lodged a written complaint… alleging that on that very day…” there was “an assembly of some activists of CPI (Maoist) and Polici Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee”, and that there was an IED explosion, police acted quickly, could arrest Chhatradhar and some others while many others fled away. That was the police report submitted under oath which the judge accepted as true. Nothing could be further from truth as reports in as many dailies showed the next day that some policemen posing as media persons arrested Chhatradhar Mahato when he was giving an interview and the police was deliberately misleading the court by giving a different version convenient to them. The judge conveniently ignored this deliberate misrepresentation of facts has added to the misery of the incarcerated.
But there was rhyme and reason in this act of convenient ignorance of the court as it observed that “it cannot overlook the situation of terror that has arisen in the Jungle Mahal for a long period for the activities of PSBJC and its supporters, as well as the huge number of villagers being lost forever during the period and the harassment of the local people…” When a judge opts to go by the statement of the prosecution and when it believes that to be the truth and the only truth then judiciary—as an institution to instill judicious deliberation in settling questions relating to life, dignity, security, better living conditions and more so against the lawlessness of the police—becomes an instrument in furthering lawlessness.
There was hardly an effort to look into the role played by the police in the region in inflicting countless miseries on the people along with the hired mercenaries of the CPI (M). In fact the judge had turned the facts upside down as she makes an attempt to show that she has taken “all aspects together” and “its effects on the society as a whole…” while conferring the judgement. It is akin to the observation made by the Supreme Court while confirming the death sentence of Mohd. Afzal Guru in the Parliament attack case so as to “satisfy the collective conscience of the nation”!
For the last two decades numerous observations have been made and verdicts have been given by the High Courts and Supreme Court on the anti-people, colonial Sedition Act. One cannot frame any person even if one speaks about the need of the ouster of an established government unless there is definite proof that one is actually making preparations, assemblies and procuring arms with that end in view. There is no reflection at all of all these verdicts in the present judgement. Most of the prisoners who have been convicted are poor people who cannot make both ends meet. They have already spent more than five years and seven months in prison. This judgement comes at a time when Maya Kodnanis and Babu Bajrangis who have committed/masterminded acts of crime against humanity get bail, when a Jayalalitha walks free for having taken less money that can be deemed corruption (!) and a Salman Khan walks free for running his car over pavement dwellers while those who stood for the people, their dream for a better world without any form of atrocities or exploitation have to be put behind bars “for its effects on society”! Strange tales (horrors) of the largest democracy in the world!
The CRPP unequivocally condemns this farce of a trial and calls upon all the democratic people, civil libertarians, intellectuals, artists, students, social activists to raise their voice against such a judgement that is arbitrary as it blindly follows the prosecution version, unlawful as it ignores the precedence of law set by the higher courts and biased as it turns a blind eye to the genuine political aspirations of the masses of Jungle Mahal.
Secretary Public Relations