Chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced the release of 51 prisoners who were serving life sentences and have already served between 15 to 23 years behind bars. She made the announcement at the Writers’ Buildings on Monday, which is observed as the international human rights day.
The releases were decided on the basis of recommendations made by the Review Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, headed by retired justice Maloy Sengupta. However, Mamata’s list had only three ‘political prisoners’, who are members of SUCI(C).
“I make this announcement to mark international human rights day. We have kept our commitment. Many of them have spent many years in jail. I hope the decision would make the prisoners and their family members happy,” the chief minister said.
Earlier she had announced release of 55 political prisoners who were jailed for participating in North Bengal’s Kamtapur, Greater Cooch Behar and Gorkhaland movements. She had also released 83 prisoners were not political prisoners but served more than 15 years in jail.
SUCI (C), however, was not happy with Mamata’s declaration, especially with the fact that none of their senior leaders, including 9-time MLA Prabodh Purkait and state committee member Prafulla Mandal, is being released.
“We heard only three of our activists are being released. But the government has not said anything about a number of our senior leaders and workers who were implicated on false charges during the Left era,” Soumen Basu, state committee secretary of SUCI(C), told HT.
“We are worried that Purkait, who is close to 80 and quite unwell, may die behind the bars,” he said, adding that his party would like human rights organisations to take up the issue.
None of Mamata’s three lists include a single Maoist either, even though the Maloy Sengupta committee had recommended release of all prisoners who have been granted the status of political prisoner by any court.
The list includes former state committee members of the banned CPI(Maoist), Patit Paban Haldar, Himadri Sen Roy alias Somen, Sudip Chongdar alias Kanchan, Akhil Ghosh alias Anil, Barun Sur alias Bidyut, Anu Mandal alias Kalpana Maity, Maoist spokesperson Gour Chakraborty and PCAPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato. Chakraborty has been unwell for quite some time.
“There is pressure from the Centre for not releasing the Maoists. That is why the government has not decided on those recommendations,” said a lawyer close to the state government.
However,Mamata announced that her government would not oppose the bail petition for veteran Maoist leader Sushil Roy in West Bengal’s cases.
Roy who was recently granted bail after union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde decided on his release on the grounds of critical health condition.
Roy, a former politburo member, was arrested from Konnagar in Hooghly district in 2005.