Around 80 political prisoners in four jails — three of which are in Kolkata — went on a 24-hour hunger strike Saturday morning to protest against the “torture” inflicted on former Maoist Kalpana Maity, who is currently in Alipore Women’s Jail. The strike at Presidency Jail, Dum Dum Jail, Jalpaiguri Jail and Alipore Women’s Jail began at 6 am and end at the same time Sunday.
Ranjit Sur, a member of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, a city-based human rights organisation, said he was in touch with the prisoners and that the organisation had received a written complaint from Maity detailing the “torture”.
“She gave us the written complaint at her last court appearance, which was on the 6th of this month. She was to approach the court as well but couldn’t place her complaint in front of them in the last hearing. According to her complaint, Kalpana has started suffering from many illnesses since she was shifted to Alipore jail. She suffers from high blood sugar, arthritis and a number of other illnesses.
She alleges that the jail warden has issued instructions to all other inmates in the prison that if she asks anyone for help, they are not to help her. The other inmates have been prohibited from talking to her, and she has been prohibited from talking to them. She has been instructed to clean her own cell and bathroom which the other inmates don’t have to do. Other inmates are allowed on the prison grounds for walks or exercise. Kalpana has been denied this facility,” said Sur.
He added that despite Maity being an political prisoner, recognised by the court as such, she was not given due facilities. “There are certain things that a political prisoner is to receive by law, such as a table, chair, books, newspapers and writing material. The prison authorities have not given her these facilities. She has been isolated completely,” he alleged.
According to Sur, Maity was arrested on December 4, 2010, with four other alleged Maoists, Sudip Chongdar, Barun Sur, Akhil Ghosh and Bimal Mallick, from Maidan in Kolkata. She was known to be close to Maoist Kishenji, often called his “shadow”. “The political prisoners have decided that if this torture does not stop, then across all jails in West Bengal, they will go on an indefinite hunger strike,’’ said Sur.
In 2012, soon after coming to power, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had permitted the release of 51 political prisoners who had received life terms and had already served over 15 years in jail. The recommendations were made by a ‘Review committee for the release of political prisoners’, headed by retired Justice Maloy Sengupta. However, while the Sengupta committee had recommended the release of all political prisoners, this was not done.