ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Prisoners

Right since its inception, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) has been fighting for unconditional release of political prisoners, that is, for general amnesty for political prisoners. But the Mamata Banerjee-led government has decided in its first cabinet meeting to form a review committee to examine the issue on a case-to-case basis. This approach of the government is far short of our demand and expectations. We therefore appeal to the government to reconsider its decision and announce a general amnesty for political prisoners as a policy guideline in their second cabinet meeting. In 1977, the then Left Front government did exactly this. In its first cabinet meeting it issued a policy guideline of general amnesty for political prisoners and ordered its advocate general to take steps so that all political prisoners can be released. And, the first Left Front government eventually released all political prisoners. The Jyoti Basu-led government did not form any committee to review the cases though the number of political prisoners was much higher than the present count. Moreover, in 1977 there was no legal definition of political prisoner, but now the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992 clearly defines who political prisoners are. This will help the government to make the list of political prisoners swiftly.

APDR strongly opposes the approach of some activists or organisations who are trying to categorise political prisoners on the basis of the charge of violence. This is a typical state approach which should be condemned. Even the 1992 Act made no such categorisation and kept all political prisoners under the same definition whether they allegedly indulged in violence or practised Gandhian non-violence. It is important to mention here that the first Jyoti Basu-led government even released the political prisoners who were ordered to be hanged, like Asit Biswas and Molina Dok. Many lifers were also released. All this happened because of the pressure of the mass movement and strong public opinion.

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