Kolkata – Press Release on political prisoners

May 22, 2011


APDR as an organization has been fighting for unconditional release of political prisoners since its inception. This implies a general amnesty for political prisoners. But the Mamata Banerjee Govt. has decided in its first Cabinet Meeting to form a Review Committee to judge the issue on a case to case basis. This approach of the Govt. is far short of our demand and expectations. We therefore appeal to the Govt. to re-consider their decision and announce a general amnesty for political prisoners as a policy guideline in their next Cabinet meeting.

In 1977 the then Left Front Govt. did exactly this. In their first Cabinet Meeting they issued policy guideline of a general amnesty to all political prisoners and ordered their Advocate General to take steps so that all the political prisoners could be released. And the first Left Front Govt. eventually released all political prisoners. Jyoti Basu Govt. did not need to form any committee to review the cases though number of political prisoners were much higher than the present number. Moreover, in 1977 there was no legal definition of political prisoner. But, now the West Bengal Correctional Services Act 1992 has clearly defined who are considered to be the Political Prisoners. This will help the Govt. to make the list of Politcal Prisoners swiftly.

We at the same time strongly oppose the approach of some Rights Activists or Organisations who are trying to categorise the Political Prisoners on the basis of charge of violence. This is a typical statist approach which should be condemnded. Even the 1992 Act did no such categorization and kept all Political Prisoners under the same definition whether they committed violence or practised ‘Gandhism’. It is important to mention here that the first Jyoti Basu Govt. 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.

Finally, we would like to say that it is only the will of the Govt. that matters(as we saw in the case of Singur). No Committee is necessary for the release of the Political Prisoners, What is needed is the political will of the new Govt.

So we urge the new govt. to reconsider and review the decision of the 1st Cabinet meeting in their 2nd meeting and decide to grant general amnesty for all political prisoners, i.e. release all political prisoners unconditionally as the then Left Front Govt did in 1977.

Thanking You,

Ranjit Sur (Secretary)