DID YOU KNOW JAL RULE SAYS – , there is a clause that you can write a letter to your family once a month. The clause was made 150 years ago
Lashing out at the condition of jails in India, political activist Arun Ferreira called for jail reforms and change in archaic rules. Ferreira who was arrested in Mumbai in 2007 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was in the city on Monday to talk about his book Colours of The Cage — a memoir on his life at Nagpur Central Jail. Being a cartoonist, he started sketching his experiences as a prisoner but later realised penning down his experiences can be a powerful tool. His book is based on his struggles, condition of prisons and challenges faced by prisoners.
He was invited by Prashant, a Centre for human rights, justice and peace on the occasion of International Day for Tolerance. Talking about his journey, Ferreira said, “Basically there are two things that I want to focus on: One is about the conditions of Indian prisons. These jails are old and arbitrariness is quite common here. Some of the rules are so archaic that the government should consider improvising them. For instance, there is a clause that you can write a letter to your family once a month. The clause was made 150 years ago.
There is a huge gap between the government’s claims about the prisons and its actual condition. These jails are overcrowded and the harassment to prisoners violates their human rights and goes against the Indian constitution.” The thought of writing a book came to him after he finished sketching 40 cartoons and realised a lot remained to be shared with the world. “I am a cartoonist, so while in jail I decided to sketch the life in jail. I wanted to portray the real picture of jail on how people are treated in jail, how cops dehumanise the prisoners.
I drew 40 cartoons but then some of my friends advised me to write a story,” he added. The book’s first chapter is named 3478 – his prisoner number. The book has also been printed in Marathi, Telugu and Bengali. Arun, a political activist since his college days, was arrested on charges of being an alleged Naxalite. “I want people to protest UAPA which criminalises ideologies. The Act was introduced in 2004 and it completely violates the basic human rights and goes against the Constitution of India. When I was arrested, the police seized books from my home, some of which were on Maoists.
So, they claimed I am a Maoist leader. This means, if I read a book on Osama bin Laden, I am associated with him. There is a need to build strong movement to oppose these acts which challenge ideologies,” he said. Though the activist nature in him never took rest, he went on a hunger strike for 27 days along with other prisoners protesting against the jailors. He also shared a cell with Yakub Memon, he said. Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, director of Prashant said, “We have much to internalise and inculcate tolerance in the mainstream.”