Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Kolkata editor of Maoist mouthpiece dies in custody

Madhuparna Das Posted online: Wednesday, Feb 03, 2010 at 0223 hrs

Kolkata : Four months after he was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Swapan Dasgupta, 59, the editor of the Bengali edition of Maoist mouthpiece People’s March, died in custody at the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata on Friday.
Dasgupta was shifted to the SSKM Hospital on December 28 for treatment of asthma and respiratory problems. While rights activists alleged that it was a “state murder”, B D Sharma, ADG, Prison, said: “We met all requirements, there was no negligence from our side.”

The Kolkata Police Special Branch had picked up Dasgupta from his residence in Garia on October 6 last year, on charges of being associated with the People’s March — a Maoist mouthpiece that was earlier banned by the Kerala Government. However, the Press & Registration Appellate Board (PRAB) had lifted the ban on August 7 — two months before Dasgupta’s arrest.

Members of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) pointed out that the Bengali edition of People’s March has a valid press registration number—-WB BEN/2004/15681, “It was never put under any ban in Bengal. Even the Kerala ban had been lifted at the time of Dasgupta’s arrest in October,” said the organisation.

Sujato Bhadra, general secretary of APDR, said: “He was murdered by the state. We have already filed complaints to the National Human Rights Commission. He required platelets and blood but it was not supplied by the jail authorities.”

Dasgupta, son of a government employee, Sisir Kumar Gupta, used to work in the Customs department earlier. In the ‘70s, he quit his job and got involved in publishing books and leaflets to support the Naxalite movement in the state. Ever since his parents died a few years back, Dasgupta was taking care of his sister who is mentally challenged and a younger brother.

“Dasgupta’s death is a state murder. He had been subjected to severe torture in jail. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the life of a person in custody,” said P Govindankutty, editor of People’s March. Govindankutty, who edits and publishes People’s March from Thrippunithura on the outskirts of Kochi, said Dasgupta would be the first person in the country to die in custody after being nabbed under the UAPA.

“The publication would march ahead in Bengal despite the death of the comrade. Somebody else would come up. If required, we would operate it from underground,” he said.

In its case diary, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, the Special Branch said: “Accused persons being the publisher, printer and editor of People’s March (Bengali version) — a magazine of CPI-Maoists — entered into criminal conspiracy to wage war against the government.” It said Dasgupta was engaged in “publishing and printing the magazine of the CPI-Maoists which was banned by the central government under the UAPA 1967 by its notification No. 954 dated 22.06.2009.”

Dasgupta was arrested under Sections 18 (conspiracy), 20 (punishment for organising terrorist camps), 39 (support given to terrorist organisation) of UAPA 1967 and 121/121A/124A of IPC that deal with sedition against the state.

After his arrest, Dasgupta was remanded to police custody for 28 days. He was interrogated by the CID and the Special Branch.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior CID official said: “We interrogated him for several days. But we did not find anything substantial to book him under the UAPA. In the case diary, it was mentioned that he used to publish a banned magazine and also published an exclusive interview of elusive Maoist leader Kishenji and PCAPA chief Chhatradhar Mahato. But it was not something unique to his publication, as several newspapers also published such interviews and articles. No charges were proved against him and we did not get any evidence against him to submit the chargesheet.”

When contacted, Gautam Mohan Chakraborty, commissioner of police, said: “It is true that he was involved in publishing a banned magazine. But he had several other charges against him.”

Editor's death in custody sparks protest by Maoists

TNN, 3 February 2010, 06:43am IST

KOLKATA: Undertrials lodged at Midnapore Central Jail, who have been booked for their alleged links with Maoists and tribal outfit People's

Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), announced on Tuesday that they would "boycott" their production in court on February 9 to protest against the custody death of Swapan Dasgupta, editor of the Bengali version of the People's March.

"It is an attempt to draw the attention of Union home minister P Chidambaram as he will be in Kolkata then to meet the chief ministers of four states to discuss the Maoist issue," said Koushik Sinha, jailed PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato's lawyer.

Dasgupta, who had been suffering from asthma, died at SSKM Hospital early on Tuesday. Kolkata Police had arrested the 59-year-old editor on October 6, 2009, from his Garia residence for his alleged Maoist links. Police had booked Dasgupta under UAPA, claiming that the articles published in the People's March are seditious. They had also branded the publication as the mouthpiece of CPI (Maoist).

Police had kept Dasgupta in their custody for 28 days before he was remanded in judicial custody. "During interrogation, he was tortured mentally and physically and he fell ill. However, neither police nor the jail authorities bothered to provide him with proper medical care. Also, he was not granted bail despite his serious illness," said Choton Das, secretary of Bandi Mukti Committee.

Dasgupta was shifted to SSKM Hospital on December 17. Police are, however, yet to file a chargesheet against him.

On Tuesday, Trinamool Congress MP and singer Kabir Suman went to SSKM to meet Dasgupta's bereaved family. The activists decided to move the NHRC, saying it was a case of custodial death.

Rights activist Kiriti Roy said Dasgupta was the "first victim of UAPA to have died", alleging that his death was due to inhuman treatment in custody. He sought immediate withdrawal of UAPA.

Reacting to the charges, JCP (HQ) Jawed Shamim said: "The post-mortem has been done according to norms. We are not aware of any complaints of torture in police custody."

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