Stop imprisoning activists and intellectuals; depopulate prisons to prevent the spread of Covid19: Popular Front

Popular Front of India Chairman O M A Salam expressed outrage over the ongoing arrest spree in the country against activists and intellectuals and the lack of concern by the authorities for the rising Corona cases among country’s prison population.

Studies have already showed that Indian prisons are overcrowded with a national average occupancy rate of 114% and in state like Uttar Pradesh this is far higher. Under-trails make up for the vast majority of these prisoners. India’s largest Tihar alone has 17,500 such undertrials. Now there are frightening reports that covid 19 pandemic is fast spreading in the prisons of the country and the situation is getting worse by each day without proper medical facilities to address the situation. Political prisoners including activist Varavara Roa, Assamese activist Akhil Gogoi and anti-CAA student activist Sharjeel Imam have already been tested positive for the disease. Mr. Roa, an octogenarian, was kept in a pathetically unhygienic condition with no basic facilities and with no one attends to. Government is duty bound to protect them, instead, by keeping them in such condition, the government is willingly leaving them to die.

In the wake of Corona pandemic, world consensus is increasing in favour of depopulating prisons so as to minimise the spread of virus among the prison population. However India is moving in the opposite direction. The helpless situation is being misused in India by various law enforcement agencies to go after activists and individuals who are critical of the government policies. New arrests are being made on a daily basis. NIA arrest of DU Professor Hani Babu linking with Bhima Koregaon case is outraging. He is a strong voice for social justice and inclusiveness both as an activist and an academic. NIA accusations are devoid of any substance. Like others implicated in the case, he is just another innocent being targeted for his views.

Popular Front condemns these arrests and demands the intervention of higher judiciary to put immediate halt to such arrests and release all political prisoners on bail in order to depopulate and ensure a safe environment in prisons.