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Daddy won’t be coming home any time soon

Saturday, November 05, 2011
By Philip Varghese

In the latest development in the case of jailed human rights activist Arun Ferreira, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday adjourned the matter till  November 28 after the police

failed to produce Ferreira in court. The reasons for this was not known, leading other activists and organisations supporting Ferreira to declare that it was another excuse to delay the case and keep him be in jail.

It may be recalled that after spending four years and four months in prison as an under-trial in Nagpur Central Jail, during which his lawyer said he was subjected to various degrees of torture, Arun was cleared of all charges.

On September 27, family members, supporters and well-wishers waited outside the jail premises for him to walk to freedom. Instead, as they watched in horror, Arun was not given a chance to say a single word to them. As he emerged, unidentified persons forcibly pulled him in front of the jail gate, gagged him with their hands, held him by his neck, dragged him to a numberless Tata Sumo, and forcibly pushed him into the vehicle and drove away. (See pictures on Page 6) Later, it transpired that the abductors were commandoes of the Central Government Offices (CGO), Gadchiroli. All of this took place in front of Arun’s family and his lawyer.

When his lawyer asked the police officials at the jail to intervene, they stayed put and instead allegedly assaulted and threatened Arun’s lawyer. Later in the evening, the lawyer found out that he had been taken to Purada police station and arrested in a case registered in 2007.

Advocate Kamayani Bali Mahabal, human rights activist, said, “Ferreira was arrested in 2007 and seven cases under UAPA were foisted on him in Maharashtra.

His arrest had made headlines in the media at that time. None of the charges against him could stand up to legal scrutiny in the courts. In 2008, he was implicated in a case in which eleven students from Chandrapur were arrested for Maoist links. Though he was in jail at the time, Arun was also added on as an accused. On September 23, this year, he was acquitted in this case as well.”

Mahabal added, “This is another in a long line of incidents which are a complete mockery of justice. We have witnessed repeatedly in the last two decades draconian action by police in different states, encouraged and directed by the executive machinery. The anti-terror laws have given the police unmitigated powers in exercising their birth-rights as abductors, torturers and encounter killers.” 

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament from Bandra, Priya Dutt, from where Arun Ferreira hails, has asked chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to intervene in the case after a representation from The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF). In a letter to the chief minister, she wrote that Arun Ferreira, despite being exonerated by the courts, is being held captive in Nagpur Jail and she would appreciate Prithviraj Chavan doing the best he could to remedy the situation.  

Joseph Dias, the CSF general secretary, in a memorandum to the CM, said, “The serious and blatant violation of human rights by the Maharashtra Police is reminiscent of the notorious Binayak Sen and Soni Sori cases.” Almost every human rights activist and NGO, and almost 5,000 concerned citizens have signed an online petition seeking to free him. The petition adds that he is not the kind that would flee the country. If he is found guilty, the law should take its course, it said.

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