NATIONAL FREEDOM: Tea, toil & abuse for the Indian prisoner

NATIONAL FREEDOM: Tea, toil & abuse for the Indian prisoner – and 9.5 years for Chattray Subba’s incarceration without conviction under Bengal, no Indian Human Rights in Darjeeling or Dooars ?!!

Abdul Karim at Howrah station on Tuesday - a happy reunion with family soon ?!! (Amit Datta)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH STAFF REPORTER

Calcutta, Aug. 31: Half-a-bread and a cup of tea for breakfast and endless hours of toil, not to speak of the abuses that came with it for being an Indian.

Back from Rawalpindi’s Adiala central jail after nearly seven years of rigorous imprisonment, Abdul Karim is still struggling to come to terms with his new-found freedom.

The pains — not physical though — are still so fresh that the 27-year-old from North Dinajpur’s Goalpokhor dreads to think of life beyond India’s borders. But given a chance Abdul would like to visit Pakistan once and tell the aam aadmi that Indians are not committed to spreading terror — “hum Bhartiyon aatank nahin phelatey hain.

Chattray Subba in a cage - incarcerated by Bengal since 10 February 2001, 9 and a half years and counting, justice delayed is justice denied, so need for a separate and just Judiciary too ?!! (HN)

“The general perception about India is very depressing. Almost everyone would feel that we are dedicated to spreading terror. They would even discriminate against us on this ground and make us put in extra hours of work in jail,” Abdul, who taught in a Patiala madarsa, recalled.

Arrested by the Pakistani authorities on charges of crossing the Indian border at Patiala in September 2003 when he went to pick up a football that had bounced across, Abdul was released on August 28 this year. A day after he was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border, Abdul boarded the train which arrived at Howrah today. He left for North Dinajpur in the evening and is expected to reach Aluabari Road station, the railway halt nearest to his house, tomorrow.

Back home in Goalpokhor’s Betabi village, Gulshan Begum is waiting for her son. Her husband Mohammad Tazuddin died in May.

Family of freed teacher - Goalpokhor’s Betabi village, Gulshan Begum is waiting for her son, as is Chattray's family - Bengal still not compassionate, nor just ?!! (TT)

“Everyday they would make us work for four to five hours in small groups. It would be anything from digging soil to crushing rocks or even washing clothes of jail officials,” Abdul said, running his hands over his over-grown unkempt beard. “I would never lose an opportunity to wash clothes since it fetched me Rs 20 (in Pakistani currency). There are still seven Indian who are languishing in the Rawalpindi jail.”

Abdul’s torture had begun from the moment he was held by the guards covering the border. “It was late in the evening when the police caught me. I was then taken to two officers who kept me in their custody for months. Everyday, they would ask me the same question as to why I had sneaked in and I would keep repeating that I had no such intention and that it had happened accidentally,” said Adbul.

After the border police got over with him, Abdul was taken over by the Pakistan army intelligence and the officers grilled him for seven months, often starving him and keeping him awake at night to “bring out the truth”. Finally, when they were sure that he was not a spy, he was put up before a court in Pakistan that remanded him in jail custody.

After reaching home, Abdul is not sure whether he would first visit Tazuddin’s grave or the madarsa from where he went to Patiala for higher training and which then changed his life.

“It’s a strange feeling. Free from the agony of living in a Pakistani jail just ahead of Id, it’s a great moment to return home,” Abdul said. (to Bengal ?!!)

EARLIER

Hunger strike for Subba’s trial – still on the Gorkha mind as a glaring example of Bengal’s justice system, hence the call for a separate judiciary with its own High Court bench ?!!

File photo of Chattray Subba in Jalpaiguri - a brief moment outside Bengal's parochial cage ?!! (HN)

From The Telegraph

Darjeeling, April 20, 2008: The Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) will organise a two-day hunger strike across the Darjeeling hills from Thursday to demand a speedy trial of Chattrey Subba, the chief of the Gorkha Liberation Organisation.

Subba was arrested for his alleged involvement in the assassination attempt on GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh on February 10, 2001. He is currently lodged at the Jalpaiguri central jail and the trial has not yet concluded.

“We have been submitting memorandums to various officials since March 2007. We had also held a dharna in Jalpaiguri, but nothing has happened. We just want the trial to be completed as early as possible. If the hunger strike fails to make an impact, we will launch a stronger agitation,” said Shekar Chhetri, the chief of the Democratic Revolutionary Youth Front, the CPRM’s youth wing.

“We have nothing to say if Subba is proved guilty but the trial must be completed soon,” he added.

The DRYF is spearheading a campaign demanding Subba’s release. Its cadres are scheduled to sit for the hunger strike in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik, Bijanbari and Gorubathan among other places. “Eleven cadres will participate in the hunger strike in each of these places,” said Chhetri.

The DRYF has also planned to stage a sit-in at Writer’s Buildings on the same issue next month.

In another development, the Darjeeling district administration has refused permission to the Legal Rights Awareness Forum, a conglomeration of lawyers, to hold a rally in Siliguri on April 22, condemning the April 9 incident when police rained baton blows on a rally by ex-servicemen demanding Gorkhaland.

The lawyers were planning to bring out a rally from Gurung Bustee to Court More in Siliguri and submit a memorandum to district officials.

“We will not hold the rally now as permission has been denied to us. However, we have taken strong note of the administration’s decision and will hold a meeting soon to chalk out our future plan,” said Poonam Kumar Sharma, the secretary of the forum.

“The government is trying to create a rift between the hills and plains by not allowing us to hold a peaceful rally. We are also thinking of not allowing the CPM to hold its political programmes across the hills,” said Sharma.

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