Mumbai: The shock arrest of a top leader of the CPI (Maoist), Kobad Ghandy, days after being released on bail on December 12 has been strongly condemned by the Revolutionary Writers Association and the Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) who said the police was using these kinds of tactics to prolong the incarceration of political activists.
Just minutes after Ghandy stepped out of the magistrate’s court in Achampet of Nagarkurnool district in Telangana after attending an ongoing trial on December 16, a team of over 50 policemen stopped him at the entrance of the court. The policemen – some from Telangana and the rest from Jharkhand – took him in custody and by evening he was flown directly to Ranchi instead of being produced in Hyderabad. Ghandy, the Maoist ideologue who was released on bail on December 12 by the Vishakhapatnam trial court after spending over eight years in jail, is currently lodged at the Tenughat sub-jail in Bokaro district of Jharkhand in a separate case of murder.
According to Balla Ravindra, a lawyer representing Ghandy and also the general secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, the 71- year old Ghandy was shaken by this sudden arrest. “They flouted established procedures and took him away to Jharkhand. Since they already had a booked flight ticket for 7 pm, they did not even wait for his medical test, (mandatory under the Code of Criminal Procedure) to be conducted,” Ravindra said. In a handwritten note, Ghandy speaks of being unwell and being advised medical rest and says, “if anything happens to my health in jail, I will hold the government responsible.”
In the incident of 2007 for which he has now been arrested, Naxals had allegedly attacked one CISF camp in the Bokaro Thermal Power station (BTPS) police station area. Six persons were killed and many others injured in the attack allegedly planned and executed by over 300 Naxals at the CISF camp and the adjoining Gandhi Nagar police station. A series of bombs were exploded and the Naxals had allegedly resorted to firing. Ghandy has been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code for murder, and rioting and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. All persons, booked in that case have already been acquitted or released on bail. A chargesheet is yet to be filed against Ghandy in this case.
Ghandy, who has spent several years in Tihar jail and later at Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam prison, has been booked in seven cases in all. He has already been acquitted in three. Between his transit from Telangana to Bokaro, the Jharkhand police – led by the Additional Superintendent of Police Sanjay Kumar – produced him before the Nampally court in Hyderabad. The magistrate granted permission instantly.
In his note, Ghandy said, “I and the Cherlapalli jail authorities wrote to the Tenughat Junior First Class Magistrate twice for (my) production. But there was no response.” Ravindra pointed out this is an old tactic used across the country to prolong incarceration of “political prisoners”. A similar incident had occurred in Nagpur, Maharashtra, when Arun Ferreira, a Mumbai- based political activist and now a lawyer was rearrested outside the Nagpur central prisons on September 29, 2011 soon after his release. Ferreira too, was booked in several cases, all relating to his alleged involvement in Naxal activities, only to be later acquitted from all. In all Ferreira spent nearly five years – from 2008 to 2013 in Nagpur prison.
One more warrant has been pending against Ghandy in the Surat court. His lawyers and civil rights groups have demanded that he be produced before the designated courts and the trial be commenced in each of them, instead of waiting for his release in one case and then re-arresting him. “We are preparing our appeal against the arrest,” advocate Ravindra said.
Responding to the arrest, rights activist Varavara Rao said Ghandy has been suffering with several ailments including an enlarged prostrate. “ He wanted to travel to Surat for the case in which a warrant is pending against him.”
Ghandy, a native of Mumbai stayed in Telangana even after his release since he had to appear before another court in Bellampalli of Mancherial district of Telangana on December 20. “He was planning to then go back to Mumbai after completing all the formalities here. His doctor at Apollo hospital has said he is not up to travelling,” Ravindra said.