Believing Maoism is not a crime: Hem Mishra

mishra image(Hem Mishra a student of JNU and a cultural activist, was arrested in Gadchiroli,Maharastra, in August 2013, following the arrest of Pro. GN Saibaba. He was accused of helping Maoists and was put in the jail. Frequently we released press statements condemning the state terror and demanding his release. Now he is out on bail after spending one and a half years secluded in Nagpur jail’s ‘Anda cell’. The police booked him under several sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He is also facing the charge of sedition. Social activist Prashant Rahi and Delhi University assistant professor GN Saibaba, along with three others, are also accused in the same case. Here is the account of his two-year long nightmare –of torture and police brutality. We have taken it from .

Believing in an ideology, even Maoism, is not a crime: Hem Mishra

Tell us about the circumstances of your arrest…
I left Delhi on 19 August 2013 to meet Maharashtra-based social activist Prakash Amte. The next day, I reached Balharshah railway station at around 9.30 am. I was to board a bus to Bhamragarh when suddenly some people pounced upon me. There were 10-12 people in plain clothes. They had come fully prepared for the attack.
At first, I thought they were kidnappers. One of the men showed his police ID card after about an hour. It was then I realised that they were cops from the special cell of the Gadchiroli police. I was taken to the police headquarters. All this time, they kept on beating me. I was told to confess that my name is Shankar and I was going to meet the Naxal commander Narmada.
The police brought two tribal boys for my identification at Gadchiroli police station. I was meeting them for the first time. The boys also told the police that they did not know me. However, the policemen were adamant.
All three of us were tortured for the next three days. I could hear their cries. Every day, the cops would come and threaten to kill me in a fake encounter. I was severely abused. They wanted me to confess that I worked as a courier for the Maoists. I was not allowed to sleep for 80 hours. The other two boys have also been indicted in the case.
The police claims that you were arrested from the Aheri bus stand of Gadchiroli…
The police is lying. I was picked up from Balharshah railway station. They kept me in illegal detention for three days. I was presented before the then-Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque at police headquarters.
I showed all identification documents and told him I am a JNU student. However, Haque said I should confess whatever I was being told, or else, they would adopt ‘other means’.
I was sent to 10 days of police custody after three days of illegal detention. Later, the custody was extended for 14 more days. NIA officials and intelligence officers from Chhattisgarh, Mumbai, Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand questioned me during this period. They did not allow me to even wash my face for first 10 days. I could change clothes only when my father came to meet me.
Were you then put in Nagpur Jail in the infamous ‘Anda cell’?
I was shifted to Nagpur Central Jail on 15 September. I thought life would be easier in jail than in police custody.
I was kept in barrack No. 8, where most undertrials in Naxal-related cases are kept. I found that most such inmates were Adivasis. Some of the young tribal men were facing over 50 cases. Many among them had faced police remand for months. Most of these accused do not get a hearing date from the courts for several months.
In February 2014, these inmates started an indefinite hunger strike. I was among 22 people who were sent to the ‘Anda cell’ on the first day of this strike. The strike ended after eight days, following mediation by Justice VK Patil, the retired judge of the Bombay High Court. But I had to spend the next one and a half years within the 40-metre perimeter of the ‘Anda cell.’
Do you support Maoist ideology?
It is not illegal to follow any ideology. Each individual is free to follow the ideas of his own choice. It is a democratic right. The Supreme Court has ruled that merely supporting a banned organisation is not a crime.
I am an artist. I sing for the masses and agitate in their support. I was jailed for my role in people’s movements. I have no regrets. I am proud that I have fought for the people’s cause.
What are the charges that Maharashtra Police has levelled against you?
It has slapped charges against me under various sections of UAPA. There are five other accused in the case. All of us were kept in the same jail, including Saibaba (who is paraplegic) and Prashant Rahi.
Who is helping you fight the legal battle?
A team of lawyers from Nagpur is fighting my case. Surendra Gadling is leading the team. They are also defending many social activists of Vidarbha, who have been labelled as Maoists.

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