Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Bengali People’s March Editor Killed by Prison Maltreatment

Posted by n3wday on February 4, 2010

This article was published in Indian Express on February 3, 2010.

Kolkata editor of Maoist mouthpiece dies in custody

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 Govindan Kutty, editor of People’s March. Govindan Kutty, 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.”

Silent march with Maoist magazine editor’s body

Times of India, February 3, 2010

Kolkata: A silent funeral procession was taken out on Wednesday with the body of Swapan Dasgupta, editor of a banned Maoist magazine, by politicians and activists who claimed he had a custodial death.

Dasgupta, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) four months ago, died Tuesday at the SSKM hospital where he was admitted with asthma and respiratory complications on December 17, the hospital superintendent Debashish Bhattacharya said.

Dasgupta was the editor of the Bengali version of the Maoist magazine ‘People’s March’. Among those who took part in the march Wednesday were Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Sumon and theatre personality Bivas Chakra borty.

Suman, who courted controversy for opposing anti- Maoist operations in West Midnapore district and bringing out an album of songs on Chhatradhar Mahato, the jailed Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities leader, alleged that Dasgupta was killed in custody and demanded a probe.

“The government allowed him to die. When he was shifted from jail to the SSKM hospital on December 17, he was not given a bed and was forced to lie on the floor. Even after he was detected with blood cancer, blood was not provided as requisitioned,” Sujato Bhadra, Secretary of human rights NGO APDR, told an agency.

The funeral procession to the Keoratala burning grounds was followed by marchers carrying placards describing Dasgupta as ‘the first martyr of the UAPA’.

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