“My arms were tied to a window grille high above the ground while two policemen stood on my outstretched thighs to keep me pinned to the floor. This was calculated to cause maximum pain without leaving visible injuries. Despite these precautions, my ears started to bleed and my jaws began to swell.“
It’s not often that a man who has spent years in jail on trumped-up charges of Naxalism that eventually collapse in court, comes home and writes of the ordeal in casual, easy prose, peppered with gentle humour and playful sarcasm. Arun Ferreira is one such man.
Ferreira, who was acquitted of all 11 cases slapped against him earlier this year, after spending five years in a Nagpur prison, has written a book on prison life titled ‘Colours of the Cage’ that will be launched on Friday evening.
Ferreira describes everything from mad scramble to have a bath in jail to the manner in which he was subjected to narco-analysis and polygraph tests. He takes a dig at the ludicrous questions he was asked while in a state of sedation, that attempted to prove him guilty.
The book contains many a character sketch of fellow inmates and the bonds formed between people in jail. Ferreira describes a fellow prisoner whose “cravings for the outside world were chronic,” and would complain of an allergic rash that needed immediate treatment every other day. All the man wanted was human contact. Ferreira himself was subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement in the infamous ‘anda barrack’, which he describes in meticulous detail.
From detailing the treatment meted out to newcomers, to highlighting the pecking order in a jail, and the importance of proximity to a ‘bhai’ who could ensure one got oneself decent bedding and a spot to sleep, Ferreira’s book chronicles the near-complete breakdown of India’s prison system.
While torture is illegal, Ferreira writes of it in detail. He speaks of how betterinformed prisoners had to read the jail manual to their captors who were often ignorant of provisions of the law.
He speaks of rations that are meant to reach prisoners but get lost in transit.
Amongst the most poignant parts of the book are his descriptions of his meetings with his family. He writes about how he was told of the antics of his little son whose growing years he missed and of how he skirted questions on beatings and abuse so as not to upset his parents “Were you beaten badly?” my mother asked.
Dad sat silently beside her, avoiding direct eye contact. If I were to answer truthfully, it would only cause them more pain.
“No. It’s all part of the struggle,” I said, trying to change the flow of the conversation.
Sep 26 2014 : The Times of India (Mumbai)