On 7th March 2017, six persons (Vijay Tirki, Pandu Narote, Mahesh Tirki, Prashant Rahi, G.N. Saibaba and Hem Mishra) were convicted by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court, Maharashtra under provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. While Vijay Tirki was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, all others were sentenced for life. This case adds to the long list of political prisoners against whom criminal cases have been foisted by the State under the undemocratic UAPA along with various sections of the Indian Penal Code. This case also adds to the list of those incarcerated for being vocal or struggling against State repression. Those convicted have been alleged to be associated with the CPI (Maoist). Whether or not these allegations would hold is a matter currently sub- judice before the Bombay High Court. But it is clear that this case seeks to criminalize all activities and persons deemed to be allegedly associated with the banned CPI (Maoist).

CDRO is opposed to proscription of organisations and persecution of persons for holding certain beliefs which may be contrary to or critical of the ideology of the State. We are opposed to the use of extraordinary as well as ordinary laws for trampling upon peoples’ democratic rights to speak, organize and resist against State repression.

In this context, taking forward the CDRO Campaign for the Release of Political Prisoners launched in 2016, we are hereby releasing profiles of the six prisoners convicted by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court.

A look at the profiles makes clear that none of these persons have a proven criminal background. Prior to incarceration, all of them were lawfully and ordinarily engaged in earning their livelihood. Saibaba, Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi had been politically active, engaged with people’s struggles, or vocal about State repression. Vijay Tirki had been the Sarpanch of his village and was active about village-level issues. All of them were picked up at one place and time but shown as arrested from another location. They were brutally tortured in police custody. Suffering from 90% disability, Saibaba’s deteriorating medical condition remains neglected in jail. Mahesh’s family has not been able to gather enough resources to visit him in jail even once.

It is condemnable that a large number of persons continue to be incarcerated all over the country for their political beliefs. CDRO hereby reiterates its demands for the release of political prisoners and for the repeal of the undemocratic UAPA.

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