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Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, November 25, 2012
American Center shootout mastermind Aftab Ansari, who is on death row at Kolkata’s Alipore Central Jail, has demanded political prisoner status, following in the the footsteps of such Maoists as Chattradhar Mahato and V Venkateshwara Reddy, alias Telugu Dipak, who were granted the status in August after a Calcutta high court order.

Ansari’s argument: just as the Maoists, he, too, has been convicted of “waging war against the state” and, therefore, deserves similar treatment.

The application memo No. 8659/WO was submitted to the Alipore Central Jail authorities on November 23 and is addressed to the inspector-general of state prisons, Ranvir Kumar.

The letter had a subject “application for seeking political prisoner status under Section 24(G)r/w70(3).”

“We’ve received an application from Aftab Ansari seeking political prisoner status. He said that, since the Maoists share the same sections of waging war
against the state and sedition, he, too, should enjoy the status. We’re processing the request to forward it to the higher authorities,” a senior officer at Alipore jail told HT on Saturday.

Ansari’s letter reads, “A recent ruling by Hon’ble Calcutta High Court justice KS Ahluwalia stated that any person accused, or convicted, of political offence or waging war on the state or sedition is entitled to be treated as a political prisoner. The verdict was passed on a petition of seven alleged Maoists, including Chattradhar Mahato, who is also charged with waging war with the state.”

Ansari pleaded that he, too, had been convicted in the American Center shoot-out case under sections 121, 121A and 122 of the IPC, which deal with waging war against the state. Therefore, Ansari argued, he was entitled to political prisoner status according to the jail code.

“He gave five points of arguments citing the court ruling, sections 121 to 130 (waging war against the state or sedition), which both the Maoists and he share. He said the court had already defined “political prisoners” and he was a fit case for that,” a jail officer said.

On January 22, 2002, five policemen were killed and 20 injured as terrorists opened fire on the policemen on duty in front of the American Center in Kolkata. Ansari was the alleged mastermind and was arrested in Dubai and deported to India on February 9, 2002. The lower court awarded him the death sentence in 2005. He then petitioned Calcutta High Court, which upheld the death sentence on February 2010. Ansari’s appeal has now reached the apex court.

Ansari, now 38, was awarded capital punishment in 2005 and is now under 24 hours’ surveillance in a solitary cell.

The Calcutta High Court verdict granting political prisoner status to seven Maoists, including Chattradhar Mahato and Telugu Dipak had come on August 6.