“It’s good to be out after so many years. Certainly,” says alleged Maoist sympathiser Kobad Ghandy, who walked out of Visakhapatnam Central Jail on Tuesday night on bail after spending eight years in prison. “I am badly missing Parsi food. I haven’t had my favourite dishes for so many years.”
Ghandy was first arrested from Delhi in September 2009 on charges of being a member of the banned CPI (Maoist) and charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Though he was acquitted in the case last year, he had several other cases against him and has spent eight years in various jails, including Tihar in Delhi and Cherlapalli in Hyderabad.
Ghandy, 71, has two more court appearances before he goes to Mumbai — the city he and his sister Mahrukh grew up in, the city that was his home for 21 years before he left for London to study chartered accountancy and came back to in the 1970s as a changed man, consumed by the idealism of the Left movement that had gripped London then.
On his return, Ghandy, the son of Nargis and Adi Ghandy, a wealthy Parsi couple, had plunged into post-Emergency civil liberties movements and in 1978, established the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights. It was also in Mumbai that he met his future wife, Anuradha Shanbag, then an MPhil student at Elphinstone College. In 2008, while the couple were underground, Anuradha died of malaria. A year later, Ghandy was arrested.
“I can’t wait to get to Mumbai. My sister, brother-in-law Sunil (Shanbag, theatre personality)… they have all been waiting to see me. Initially, they didn’t tell my mother-in-law that I was out, but she read it in the papers. So when I go there, it’ll be a good surprise,” he says, the joy at his release evident throughout the phone conversation, except when he talks of the pending cases against him.
“There are still some seven cases, all 10- to 15-year-old cases in which they haven’t filed the chargesheet yet. So I am worried they will suddenly decide to revive it. Then there is the Gujarat case, where the police there have picked up this person from Nagpur (Tushar Bhattacharya was arrested in August for alleged Naxalite activities. Ghandy’s name figures in the case). At this age, all this is a source of tension… So yes, I am happy to be free, but this is only semi-freedom,” he says. “I am really upset that they kept me in jail for so long when the police had no intention of filing chargesheets.”
There is something else that bothers him. “Many things have changed since I was arrested. Technology has changed so much, I have no idea how to use a smartphone,” he says with a dry chuckle.
“It feels good to be out of jail after nearly eight years. I wish my health was a little better. One of the reasons I applied for bail is to consult some expert doctors,” Ghandy says as he nurses mild chest pain.
“It is good to meet old friends like Varavara Rao. He has been regaling me with tales of our good old days. We go back to our days in Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee. I don’t remember many things that happened decades ago,” he adds.
About his plans, he says, “I haven’t thought about the future, I don’t know what I will do. Right now my priority is to be with my family and get good medical treatment in Mumbai.”