Millennium Post

Let’s stand up for Kobad Ghandy

Why is Kobad Ghandy still in jail? Why is he not being given the requisite medical attention that he needs, given that he’s 63 and his health has been deteriorating since he was taken into police custody in 2009? Why, after four years of languishing in Tihar jail and despite framing of no substantial charges against him, is he still there? This is not just a travesty of justice but a joke on the Indian penal system, which consigns a good chunk of its hapless and innocent victims to utter and inhuman neglect. Ghandy, who was accused of being a Maoist supporter, has been suffering from a number of ailments, including kidney and skin-related troubles, which need immediate medical attention. Much like the fate of Binayak Sen until he was freed on bail, Ghandy continues to languish behind bars and hasn’t even given the special status accorded to political prisoners in select states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Hence, in the light of this callous disregard of the state authorities towards the prisoners, particularly people like Ghandy who have been sent to jail for their ideological beliefs and political orientation, a major overhaul the penal mechanism and apparatus is due. In fact, as the 1963 batch of Doon School (Ghandy’s alma mater) has suggested, not only should Ghandy be granted special facilities and medical care, as well as be spared the rigours of jail given his senior citizen status, he should even be allowed to partake in celebrations.

It is obvious that Ghandy has long been a victim of a draconian state apparatus that takes to silencing of dissent through means like unwarranted incarceration, custodial torture and other forms of harassment as a way of enforcing submission. Since when has mere harbouring of certain radical ideologies become a crime? Ghandy, a member of the Communist party of India – Maoist politbureau, was arrested on 21 September 2009, and this formidable intellectual has been relegated to the confines of jail ever since. Though his affluent Mumbai origin, his elite Doon School and London education are no safeguards or reason for his release, his deep commitment to the cause of the subaltern, having lived amongst the Adivasis for three decades before he was arrested unceremoniously, is definitely a reason why the government should reconsider its unhelpful stance. No criminal record has ever been recorded against the Maoist ideologue and it is a big slap on Indian democracy that he is festering in jail. Living dangerously and in his own terms for 30 years, Ghandy, the maverick champion of the downtrodden and those with practically no political agency of their own, cannot be allowed to spend the fag end of his life in such deplorable conditions. If India cannot understand or empathise with this revolutionary soul, what good is its experiment with self-rule and democracy? How can this veteran leader be left to lead his life behind the four walls of the overcrowded Tihar Jail, without access to medical care, his friends and comrades, his family members and other means of intellectual self-fulfillment? Is it not enough that the veteran lost his wife, an equal participant in his life of revolution, to malaria? Will he have to pay with his own life too? Why is the Indian media maintaining a studied silence on Ghandy, when it had, haltingly perhaps, found its raison d’être in freeing Binayak Sen?
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