Female Political Prisoners in West Bengal Jails

jail prison
Image Credits- Ye_Jinghan, Unsplash

The movement to release political prisoners is gaining steam nationwide. There are 75-76 political prisoners in the various districts of West Bengal. Most of them were associated with the historic mass movements of Nandigram and Lalgarh. There are also some Maoist activists who were directly associated with the party who were caught when they entered the state. All of them have been in custody without trial for many years. It is incumbent on us to demand their release.

The following writing was published anonymously in ‘Prisoners Unity’ (বন্দি সংহতি).’ – Ranjit Sur

“1) Kalpana Maity – born to a middle-bracket farmer’s family on Chandra Kona Road in West Midnapore, she was attracted to revolutionary politics from her student days. In the mid 1990s, she became a professional revolutionary and worked in the villages of the adivasi-populated areas of Belpahari and Bashpahari in Jhargram, spreading revolutionary consciousness, making people aware of their own rights and organizing them against the age-old oppressive mechanisms. In 2006, she was elected the first female State Committee member of the CPI (Maoist) in West Bengal. She had a huge role to play in the historic uprisings of Lalgarh and Jungle Mahal. She was apprehended on 3rd December, 2010 by the STF at Howrah Station while on way to Kolkata for a medical visit. It has been almost nine years since then.

After her arrest, she has faced tremendous mental torture. At the courts in Kolkata, Midnapore and Jhargram she was saddled with 7 cases. Apart from the Silda EFR Camp attack case, she received bail in all of them. The case is ongoing, and when it will conclude is anybody’s guess. In 2011, while in Midnapore Jail, Kalpana successfully organized a movement where the female prisoners demanded the right to avail of sanitary napkins.

The toll of a lengthy jail stay has left its mark on Kalpana, physically and mentally. Currently she suffers from diabetes, spondylitis, thyroid and depression and she is not receiving proper treatment at Alipore Women’s Jail. Neither is she receiving the facilities she is entitled to as a political prisoner. To avail of this, she has to regularly resort to fasts and protests.”

Continuing with the stories of extraordinary, real-life woman revolutionaries who are currently in prison in West Bengal, India translated from Prisoners’ Unity (বন্দি সংহতি), taken from the wall of Ranjit Sur.

“2) Thakurmoni Murmu – Born into a poor adivasi family from a village in the interiors of Jhargram, Thakurmoni came into contact with revolutionary politics at a very young age. Using the guiding light of her own experiences, she chose to come into the revolutionary fold and became an integral part of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. During the Lalgarh insurrection, she was responsible for the mobilization of a huge number of women. She had become a icon for the young women in Jungle Mahal.

Right before the 2016 Legislative Assembly elections, she was arrested from an adivasi village in the Hooghly district with her life-partner, Mansharam Hembrom. The police charged her in over ten cases relating to Bakura, Purulia, Jhargram, Midnapore and Kolkata. Currently, apart from an STF case in the Bankshall Court in Kolkata and the Silda Case in Midnapore Court she has been granted bail in all other cases.

Thakurmoni has held on to her fighting spirit even in prison, being present in struggles demanding the rights and facilities due to prisoners. This has brought on untold harassment for her. During her time in Alipore Women’s Jail, due to her crime of demanding adequate food for prisoners the jail authorities falsely claimed that she was using an illegal mobile phone. Then, after returning from an appearance at the High Court and on the pretext of searching her, workers at the Women’s Jail thrust their fingers up her vagina to check for banned objects. Thakurmoni tried to protest even at such a time. After a repeat of this harassment, human rights workers agitated to transfer her to Dum Dum Jail.

Before joining politics, Thakurmoni studied till class 8. While in Dum Dum Jail, she decided to sit for the Madhyamik examinations and in 2018, she passed the examination with letter marks in 6 subjects scoring 83%. When she elected to study science after this, the jail authorities were not forthcoming. They did not want to let her study science, but ultimately had to give way to her desire. She is currenrly enrolled in Rabindra Open School for her Higher Secondary examinations. But the jail authorities are trying their best to foil her attempt to clear the examination. She is not allowed to attend practical classes, does not have a teacher, or even reference texts. But Thakurmoni is not one to give up. Recently, she went to a fast to demand an increase in the money allotted for food during court visits. In order to teach her a lesson, the jail authorities tried to take away her table which she uses for study. Her friends tried to gift her a radio for entertainment, but the authorities did not allow it.”

“3) Akka Parobai Patel – From Telengana, this seriously ill revolutionary in her mid-forties came to Mumbai seeking medical treatment. Due to thyroid issues, she was losing her hearing, sight and balance. There was talk of an operation at Tata Hospital. In this condition, the ATS arrested her on 29th February, 2012 and sent her to Kolkata charged with a case related to the NIA. She has been imprisoned since then, and there has been no treatment. Needless to say, her condition has worsened. She cannot move around on her own now, and faces a language barrier. She speaks only Telugu and a smattering of Hindi. After being imprisoned, she has had no connection with her family. Her life partner, Krishna Rao is serving out a life-sentence in a separate case in Bhopal Jail.

During her stay at Alipore Women’s Jail, along with Thakurmoni Murmu, Paro Patel too underwent that brutal trauma. After returning from court, this severely-ill and infirm woman was stripped naked and fingers were thrust down her vagina to check for forbidden objects. Due to political pressure exerted by human rights organisations, she too (like Thakurmoni Murmu) was shifted to Dum Dum Jail, where she remains to this day.

4) Hirondi Mangalsingh Gowde – Hailing from Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Hirondi has been under the custody of the ATS from 29th February, 2012 along with her life-partner Dinesh Wankhede. The Mumbai ATS charged her under an NIA case and sent her to Kolkata as well. The trial in her case has not even begun, and neither has she met her family since that date.

She is good with needlework. From jail, she earns some money through this and runs her expenses. Along with Paro Patel and Thakurmoni Murmu, she too had been similarly violated in 2017.”

[Paro Patel, Hirondi Gowde and Thakurmoni Murmu are all presently lodged at Alipore Jail, while Kalpana Maity is now at Dum Dum Central Jail – Ranjit Sur]

anonymously written
Translated by Dibyokamal: an activist based in Kolkata.



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