Thursday, January 12, 2012
By Philip Varghese, Afternoon Newspaper
Coming down heavily on the state government at the Press Club on Wednesday, Bandra-based social activist Arun Thomas Ferreira, who is accused of being a Naxalite, claimed that the administration has come out with new idea of re-arresting political prisoners to suppress their ideology. Ferreira is currently out on bail in a case filed by the Gadchiroli police last year, in which he was accused of being involved in a police-Naxalite encounter near Jafargarh under Korchi tehsil in Gadchiroli district in April 2007. After being acquitted in 10 different cases lodged against him in 2007, Ferreira walked out from Nagpur Central Jail in September 2011, expecting to be a free man, only to be abducted by cops dressed in mufti and taken away in an unmarked car.
“I was abducted and re-arrested from the gates of the jail and another two cases of 2007 were slapped against me,” Ferreira claimed. “After another three month battle and following widespread public outcry against the state’s highhandedness, I was finally set free on January 4,” he added.
Of the two new cases pressed against him, he has been acquitted in one while bail has been granted in the other. “I am a leftist and had to spend more than four and a half years of my life fighting to prove my innocence. I was a political prisoner. And like me there are 27 other political prisoners, including Sudhir Dhalve, who ideology challenges the state government, languishing in the Nagpur Jail. In their cases also, the court acquitted them in some, while they were rearrested in other cases upon stepping out of jail,” he added.
Re-arresting has become a regular practice for the police, Ferreira stated, adding, “It is very shocking. Why don’t the police inform an individual about pending cases when a political prisoner is in prison? Why do cops re-arrest an individual in connection with another case once the said individual has been acquitted? A principal judge, who is retired now, had also made an observation that by coming out with the practice of re-arresting the accused, he police had violated fundamental rights to liberty.” Fed up with the alleged bias of the state police and jail authorities for re-arresting him in one case after his being acquitted in another, Ferreira had recently filed a petition before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court against the state authorities and has slapped a compensation claim of Rs.25 lakh.
While filing the petition, Ferreira said that the jail authorities and state police had violated his fundamental rights to liberty. Recalling his harrowing experience, Ferreira said, “I was tortured in custody by the police and made to undergo narco-analysis, not once but two times.”
Advocate Maharukh Adenwalla, spokesperson of Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), said, “Like Arun Ferreira, there are thousands of political prisoners languishing in Indian jails today. Ferreira’s gritty battle against heavy odds has given them hope that they too will see freedom one day.
Meanwhile Ferreira’s fight for justice continues. He has decided to make those who wasted five years of his precious, young life, pay for it. He has filed a writ petition before the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court challenging his re-arrest, the slapping of false cases against him and wrongful confinement, and has sought heavy monetary compensation from the state and punishment for the malicious police officers.”