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58 Burmese in Calcutta jails face b

58 Burmese in Calcutta jails face bleak future

By Rahul Das
The Asian Age (New Delhi)
October 20, 2000

Calcutta, Oct. 19: It is a good thing Indian Jails will not keep back 58
Burmese prisoners. It is sad their country will not have them either.
Fate has been cruel to 58 prisoners from Burma languishing in the
Presidency and Alipur Jails for the last one year. Acquitted by the
judiciary, they are behind bars because the Burmese military junta does
not want them back.

Pushed to the brink when repeated appeals to both the Indian and Burmese
governments failed, these prisoners started a hungerstrike on Tuesday.

?Indian courts had acquitted them on September 23, 1999. But we cannot
release them since there are no takers,? state minister of jails
Biswanath Chowdhury told The Asian Age on Wednesday.

The Minister said 26 of the 58 are in Alipur Central Jail and 32 in the
high-security Presidency Jail. ?They all were booked under Section 14 of
the Foreigners Act,? he said.

Jail authorities said most of them were arrested by law-enforcing
agencies when they were found sailing on the Indian Ocean. None of them
were carrying any documents.

Inspector-general of prisons Balkar Singh said these prisoners are
called jaan khalas ? men who have been released by the Indian law and
are waiting for their own countries to accept them.

The minister is very disturbed that the number of jaan khalas in
increasing by the day. ?There are hundreds of such men in the 53
correctional homes in West Bengal since they can find no takers,? he
said. He described this problem as serious one and said: ?Why don?t you
make an issue of this??

Meanwhile, jail authorities were trying to persuade these men to eatt on
Wednesday ? the second day of the strike.

?Deputy inspector-general of prisons P.D. Mondol talked to these men but
failed to make them take food,? Mr Chowdhury said. Mr Balkar Singh has
already constituted a medical board to monitor the health of prisoners.
?Some of them are very old. On Wednesday, jail doctors Anuj Bhattacharya
and K. Roy tried to force these men to eat but failed,? a jail source

Jail authorities have also sent a letter to home secretary Sourin Roy
seeking the state?s intervention.

?The home secretary, in turn, has asked the ministry of external affairs
to expedite the issue,? Mr Singh said. At the moment, the state
government is still waiting for some response form Burma?s side.

State government officials revealed that the Burmese junta had initially
denied these men were that country?s nationals.

?They have been cleared of crime. Now it is a question of nationality,?
Mr Balkar Singh said.

Myanmarese prisoners on hunger strike

The Times of India (New Delhi)
October 20, 2000

CALCUTTA: fifty-seven prisoners, claiming to be Myanmarese nationals and
acquitted by the Indian judiciary, have begun an indefinite hunger
strike in two West Bengal jails, following Yangon?s refusal to accept

They were arrested two years ago while sailing in the Indian Ocean. They
carried no documents and were booked under Section 14 of the Foreigners
Act, said IDG (Prisons) P D Mandal. The Indian courts acquitted them in
September 1999 and ordered their repatriation. But ?as per law, we
cannot release them since the Myanmarese government initially refused to
take them back,? he added.

Twenty-six of the prisoners were lodged in Alipore Jail and 31 in the
high-security Presidency Jail. Another arrested for the same offence had
not participated in the hunger strike as he was indisposed and admitted
in the jail hospital.

Increasingly frustrated with each passing day, the prisoners began the
fast on Tuesday to press for repatriation. The state government has
already written to the Ministry of External Affairs detailing their
plight, but was yet to receive a reply.