Three suspected women Maoists sympathisers lodged in Mumbai District Women’s Prison in Byculla have alleged that the jail authorities had assaulted them for highlighting the prison’s problems. They have filed a complaint in the sessions court at Sewri.
Angela Sontakey, 42, Sushma Ramteke, 22, and Jyoti Chorghe, 19, were arrested by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in April last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The three have pleaded for a thorough investigation into the assault incident of April 2. They want their statement to be recorded and the police register an FIR.
They have alleged that in a bid to alienate them the jail authorities directed the volunteers of the NGOs not to talk to them and they were denied admission to computer classes run by an NGO. The trio alleged that the authorities even confiscated Mahatma
Gandhi’s biography and a jail manual they had brought with them to share with other prisoners about prison rights.
On March 31, the trio saw some inmates being beaten by the authorities. When they tried to intervene, they were attacked by the jail employees, the complaint stated. The three were accused of instigating inmates. The inmates protested by refusing food and demanded an apology from the administration.
Two days later, Sontakey, Ramteke and Chorghe were sent to solitary confinement. “No complaint was registered before punishing us. No doctor came. No medical tests were done before the confinement and after,” the application said.
The trio then went on a hunger strike for six days. The complainants claim that they had been targeted by the authorities. “We had always raised our voice against the corrupt practices of the jail. Bribe is taken for giving requisition for your guards, for getting things, to go to JJ Hospital and for making false medical record.”
The three complained that the jail inmates are so “terrorised” by the jail’s Reform and Rehabilitation Centre that they fear to seek help. The other inmates approach them for writing applications and counselling. “This has alarmed the authorities as they feel that their importance is diminishing,” says the complaint.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should be not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones,” the complaint quotes from South African leader Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.
IG Prisons Surender Kumar said, “There are three or four people from that group who have been creating trouble in the jail by demanding different things. We had complained about them to the judge. I’m not aware about the assault incident but I don’t think our officers would have resorted to such tactics.”