Jailed Maoist launches fast-unto-death protest after failing to appear for NET
The dropout from Indian Institute of Engineering (IIT) Kharagpur reached the exam venue after the gates were closed.Updated: Dec 19, 2018 12:07 IST
A 40-year-old Maoist leader, jailed for killing dozens of state police personnel, has launched a fast-unto-death protest after he was not allowed to sit for the National Eligibility Test (NET) as he reached the examination venue late.
Arnab Dam, a dropout from Indian Institute of Engineering (IIT) Kharagpur, was arrested in 2012 and has been in jail since. He headed the 34-member guerrilla platoon of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in West Bengal’s Purulia district during 2009-2011.
“He was ready for the exam centre well ahead of time but jail officials took him out for the venue late and he reached the venue at 9.25 am, which was five minutes before the exam was to start. The gate was closed by that time and he was not allowed entry,” alleged his lawyer Ajoy Ghosh.
“He is deeply aggrieved and alleged that the jail authorities intentionally took him to the venue late,” Ghosh said.
Examinees were to enter the venue by 9am.
Dam alleged he had informed authorities of Kolkata’s Presidency Jail 12 days in advance about his exam schedule but they told him on Tuesday morning that no arrangement was made for escorting him to the venue.
He recently obtained court orders for appearing in the State Eligibility Test (SET) and NET, passing which would make him eligible for a lectureship. NET is conducted by National Testing Agency to select candidates for assistant professor and junior research fellows or both in Indian universities and colleges.
He has acquired bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from jail, securing first division in both, and applied to various universities for enrolling in a PhD programme.
On December 2, he appeared for SET as the first jailed person to appear for the test that makes one eligible for teaching jobs.
“After returning to the jail, he launched the fast-unto-death. In a letter addressed to the jail super, he has placed three demands – the correctional services minister and the director general of police (prison) will have to meet him and promise in writing of taking the responsibility of his PhD and appearance in other exams. Also, jail officials responsible for Tuesday’s incident must be punished,” human rights activist Ranjit Sur said.
Sur alleged the authorities delayed Dam’s arrival at the exam venue because the administration feared the demand for his release would get stronger once he cleared the test.
The jail superintendent could not be reached for comments.
“I have ordered a high-level inquiry on why he could not appear for the examination. It has to be found out whether it was due to any fault of the jail superintendent or because of any lapse on the prisoner’s part,” correctional services minister Ujjwal Biswas said.
The son of a retired judicial magistrate, Dam studied mechanical engineering at IIT-Kharagpur for three semesters but dropped out in 1998 to join the Maoists.
Dam was linked, among others, to the Maoist attack in February 2010 on a camp of Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) in Silda in which 24 personnel were killed. When he was arrested in July 2012, an AK-47 rifle, two magazines and some cartridges were found on him, the police had claimed.
Dam had 31 cases against him. He was either acquitted or granted bail in all except the Silda attack, for which sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) were slapped on him.