The Case of July 1977


The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.


India has been witnessing a trend where dissent is being met with charges of sedition. What has been the response of the Indian state towards dissenting individuals. How do we differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate dissent? The following discussion charts an important case which is reflective of the inhuman treatment meted at the hands of the state. 


In 1987, Nilanjan Dutta wrote about one such rare case from a decade before. Archana Guha, a school teacher accused of sedition, was picked up by the Calcutta police in July 1977 and was brutally tortured for the two years she was held in custody. Dutta notes how, Once the Emergency was lifted, the Left Front government in West Bengal not only took a long time to compensate Archana for the salary she lost during her imprisonment, but it also failed to arrange for her proper medical treatment.


An anonymous reader in their letter, disagrees. In a response to Datta’s piece, they argue that it was the Left Front government that bore Archana’s and her brother’s airfare to Denmark for her medical care. Further, they write that the state government was also willing to set up a medical board for Archana’s treatment.


Saumen Guha, Archana’s brother, replies to the EPW reader, writing that the West Bengal government did not offer Archana any medical help until Amnesty International took interest in her case. Besides, the correspondence between Amnesty International and the state government, where it expressed concern over the human rights violations in West Bengal, was never made public.


A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. Torture in Custody, Sumanta Banerjee, 2001
  2. Torture in Colonial India, Anupama Rao, 2001
  3. Torture of Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, Amnesty International, 2010
  4. Defining an Absence: Torture ‘Debate’ in India, Jinee Lokaneeta, 2014
  5. India’s Silent Acceptance of Torture Has Made It a ‘Public Secret’, Baljeet Kaur, 2018
  6. Police Atrocities and the Quest for Justice, Saumya Uma and Vijay Hiremath, 2020


Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—“Prison and Torture”


Curated by Anandita Chandra []


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