Detained Maoists, associates launch hunger strike

Kolkata: At least 150 prisoners, including pro-Maoist tribal group’s convenor Chhatradhar Mahato, lodged in correctional homes in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district, on Friday launched an indefinite hunger strike demanding their immediate release, their lawyer said.

‘Over 150 people who were arrested for being ‘Maoists’ and lodged in Midnapore correctional home and Jhargram correctional home have started an indefinite huger strike pressing for a 32-point charter of demands,’ said Kaushik Sinha, counsel for those detained.

‘The prisoners, including Chhatradhar Mahato, Manoj Mahato, Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) members and other social activists and sympathisers, have started the hunger strike. The authorities tried to force them to take food but the inmates were adamant. Finally, the correctional home authorities contacted their superiors in Kolkata,’ he added.

The 32-point charter of demands include immediate release of all PCAPA members and other people arrested from Junglemahal (Maoist affected forested areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia) for being Maoists, and withdrawal of charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), said Sinha.

‘The inmates also demanded that all social activists arrested should be released unconditionally at the earliest. Besides, they have demanded better standard of living for inmates, including setting up proper infrastructure, providing library facilities and above all withdrawal of joint forces from Junglemahal areas,’ he added.

An officer of the Midnapore central correctional home said: ‘The prisoners are on hunger strike and they refused to take food even after repeated attempts from the authorities. We have communicated with our superiors and forwarded their demands.’

‘We are expecting that the issue will be taken up seriously and the problem solved immediately,’ he added.

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