Arun Ferreira, a civil rights activist, spent four and a half years inside Maharashtra’s prisons because the police believed that he was a Maoist. He speaks of life inside prisons, of hierarchies behind bars and the ubiquity of torture in police custody.
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAVED IQBAL
Thirty-year-old Arun Ferreira hails from a middle-class Catholic family in Bandra, Mumbai. He became a political activist in his college days, active in Naxalite-affected eastern Maharashtra and during the Khairlanji killings. On May 8, 2007, he was arrested as he got off the train at Nagpur railway station from Mumbai.The police charged him under Sections 10, 13, 18 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
In a few months, eight more cases were slapped against him, including two of murder, an attack on a police station, and an explosion in Gondia. He was acquitted of all charges by the High Court in September 2011, but re-arrested outside Nagpur Central Jail just days later in front of his family, on September 27. He was charged for two more cases in Gadchiroli, again acquitted of one, and now out on bail for the other.
Ferreira has filed a case against the state on his re-arrest. There’s a touch of irony about it, as this was a subject on which he did his post-graduate master’s thesis while in jail, speaking to other prisoners who had suffered the same practice, which he describes as standard operating procedure for keeping political activists in jail.
Ferreira graduated from St Xavier’s College, married his college sweetheart, and worked in the Navjawan Bharat Sabha, an organisation active during the 1980s textile strike. That was his initial foray into political activity. He was
active in the bastis throughout the 1990s against demolition drives and for the regularisation of slums, supported by his family and his wife. He worked predominantly with youth, educating them on their rights, and eventually began to network with different people’s movements across Maharashtra, including anti-displacement struggles, Dalit and adivasi movements.
Now, a free man, he recounts his life in prison, from an activist for justice after the Khairlanji Dalit massacre, to time spent in the same jail barracks as those on death row for Khairlanji. He fought for the abolition of capital punishment; he went on a hunger strike for 27 days for basic rights in prison, and petitioned the High Court about his torture in police custody. The petition was thrown out.
He talks about his treatment and his debates with police officials, and his day-to-day routine as a prisoner in one of the most political prisons in Maharashtra state: Nagpur Central Jail.
- Bajirao in Maharashtra and Eliminators in Chhattisgarh torture in Police Lock ups- Arun Ferreira (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Branded a Maoist by the Maharashtra police (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Hunger strike only option to get basic human rights in Prison – Arun Ferreira (kractivist.wordpress.com)