Doon School classmates speak up for jailed Kobad Ghandy

Ghandy has been lodged in Tihar Jail for the past four years, accused of being a Maoist supporter. He is 66 and extremely unwell. No charges have been established against him but he continues to languish in difficult conditions behind bars.

His former classmates, who traversed continents to attend the Doon School celebration, have now issued an appeal that Ghandy should at least get the special status accorded to political prisoners.

‘The concern strongly voiced was that Kobad should be provided basic facilities that will enable him to survive the rigours of cell life. He is a senior citizen and should be treated as such. In West Bengal as well as Andhra Pradesh, political prisoners enjoy special status,’ said the Doon School old boys in an emotionally worded statement.

‘Kobad was discussed in small groups at the dinner hosted by the headmaster in his beautiful home. Why was Kobad being kept behind bars? Why had we not obtained special permission to enable him to attend the celebrations? After all, ministers in the government had been made aware of Kobad’s situation – some even knew him in school. There were many questions and few answers,’ the statement said.

The class book contains the profiles of 36 of the 44 former classmates who sent in write-ups of themselves. Kobad had sent in his from Tihar Jail and the most thumbed pages of the class book were the ones with his profile.

At dinner the next day, the 12 classmates who had passed away were mourned, but special reference was made to Kobad who could not be there.

Later, at Kikar Lodge, near Ropar, a full-fledged discussion took place as the old boys sat around a bonfire in the evening. Different views were expressed. Some felt he was by his own declaration a Naxalite theorist and his party had declared war against the State. There was little choice for the government but to put him in jail. The dominant view was that since for four years, the authorities had not been able to substantiate a single charge against him, surely he was entitled to bail in much the same way as Dr Binayak Sen was allowed out. An appeal to the authorities on Ghandy’s behalf was issued by Gobinder Singh Chopra, Delhi; Harsh Vardhan, West Lafayette, Indiana,  US; Vishvjit P. Singh, Delhi; Deepak Dhawan,  Epsom, Surrey, UK; Ramji Narayanan, Delhi; Lalit Pande, Almora; Ajay Tankha, Delhi; Ashok Chakravarti, Harare, Zimbabwe; Sumanjit Chaudhry, Delhi; Balkishan Devidayal, Mumbai; Alok Chandola,  Delhi; Amitav Bose, Kolkata; Anu Kohli, Delhi; Vijay Singal, Houstan, Texas, US; Sheel Sharma, Delhi; Daman Raj Singh, Birmingham, UK; Raman Kapoor, Delhi; Kanak Singh, Delhi and Gautam Vohra, Delhi. In the meantime, Ghandy has been appealing himself to the Director-General of Prisons.

He recently found that he was being transferred from Jail 3 to Jail 1 though he had earlier been spared such rigours.

Ghandy’s letter, circulated by his former classmates, says that though he had been suffering from skin and kidney ailments, it had taken a full month for the medical officer to see him. Then it was decided to send him to AIIMS.

The letter goes on to say: ‘Also, since one year I have been requesting for senior citizen status. In Jail 3 I asked to be shifted to Ward 4; here in Jail 1, I could be shifted to Ward 9 (I have copy of BSc degree and IT returns till arrest). On 19 October  the Sessions Court had instructed that I be provided facilities made available to senior citizens. ‘In Jail 1, they have been kind enough to give me a western toilet, medical diet, and hot water. But I also need a bed. Getting up is very difficult due to arthritis, light to be lowered for reading, as in Jail 3 (SMO permission) due to damage to the eye, a sevadar to help lift weights and cleaning.

‘There has not been any complaint against me in the four years I have been in jail. Madam I request an interview with you at your convenience.’
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