A Father’s Voice
This has reference to articles in the press discrediting my son Arun Ferreira who has been tortured and imprisoned in Nagpur Central Jail for more than a year now and subjected to all sorts of tests and chemical analysis. Arun is a noble person. His brush with activism started when he was a student in college. Injustice towards the canteen workers disturbed him. Soon after college he worked with Mumbai’s slum-dwellers – facilitating their rehabilitation and relocation. He was also actively involved in student organisations and participated in student-farmer campaigns.
On his frequent home visits, he talked about the dalits and the landless labourers who had been denied the benefits guaranteed to them under the Constitution and were thus denied health services, education, water, food and employment. He guided them, helped them in their distress and also taught their children.
I was away from Mumbai and was surprised to know that he had been arrested and the commissioner of police branded him as a “Naxalite”. ith all the accusations and hype in the newspapers, I could not return for fear of my life. Apparently Arun, along with Dhanendra Bhurule (a journalist recognised for his writings on social injustice) and Naresh Bansode (an activist) had gone to meet Murli, whom the police claim to be a “Naxalite”. As we understand, the police were tracking Murli’s movements at the time; they have conveniently implicated my son in a host of false cases, and subjected him to torture and even the dreaded narco-analysis test not once but twice over. Immediately after his arrest, the police have broken into my home in my absence. The search team headed by an assistant commissioner of police did not allow my brother to be present while my house was searched. Obviously nothing was found. On the contrary, an imported pen and radio were missing. Soon after, we were paid a visit by an interrogation team inquiring about Arun’s presence in Mumbai on certain specific dates going back several years.
Does this imply that every citizen ought to have a conclusive record of his own whereabouts dating back several years so that he can defend himself against charges allegedly committed at the time? No one will believe my son. His only chance is to find discrepancies in the original charge sheets and the police evidence with the help of lawyers and witnesses to prove his innocence. I know for certain that Arun was in Mumbai on one of those dates attending an important family get-together. Yet the police claim that they have witnesses numbering up to even a hundred in some cases. This is proof enough of the ridiculousness of the charges. Arun himself in several conversations with me since his incarceration has mentioned that he had never set foot in some of those places ever!
Arun was tortured in jail. He was denied free access to his lawyer. As a mark of protest against the many injustices faced by him in jail, he and some others went on a 28-day hunger strike. Instead of appointing an independent authority, the government has nominated the commissioner of police as an inquirer. Can one ever hope to redress to one’s grievances in this manner? He now has one more charge of “attempted suicide” slapped on him. The absurdity continues…
I now visit my son at Nagpur Central Jail and am allowed to speak to him through bars, wire mesh and constant supervision. My son often tells me “Daddy you know me. Do you believe what the police say about the crimes I committed? ”. At other times he tells me that he has never been to the places where the police allege he has committed a crime. The charges framed have nothing whatsoever to do with him. As mentioned earlier, I
know for certain he was here on one of those dates. And that says a lot about the veracity of the other charges.
The continuous and brutal initial interrogation, torture and narco-analysis have caused him much harm. The physical manifestations are headaches, hair loss and stomach-related ailments. There seems to be some discrepancies and ambiguities in the narcoanalysis reports. The video compact disc seems to have been misplaced and therefore has not been provided to Arun and his lawyer even though he has a right to it.
With all my knowledge of my son Arun, I know that he is an honest and loyal citizen and will not harm another. Like other activists all over India who are helping the poor and suffering villagers hit by the rapid industrialisation and “development”, he has been targeted and sent to jail.
I pray that the courts are able to see through these baseless charges and return Arun his freedom so that he can continue his work.
Finally, I am grateful that my son was not killed in an encounter and that he is still alive and well and able to defend himself against the charges made out against him and allowed to prove his innocence.
Oct 11th, 2008
(p.s written three years back this letter still relevent and echoes a Father’s sentiments and still there is a media trial, polic torture and brutality, nothing has changed despite the fact Arun Ferreira was discharged of all the fabricated cases in Septemebr 2011)