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Mizzima: Burmese fishermen in Calcu

Burmese fishermen in Calcutta jails ended their hunger strike

Calcutta, October 21, 2000
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

The 58 Burmese prisoners who went on a hunger strike on last Tuesday
have ended their strike yesterday. The Burmese who are languishing in
two jails in Calcutta, West Bengal of India called off their strike
after they were assured of early release by the Indian jail authorities
and concerned Burmese embassy officials in India.

The Burmese fishermen were arrested in 1997 from the Sunderbans in West
Bengal while they crossed into Indian water territory. As they carried
no documents, they were booked and charged under Section 14 of the
Foreigners Act. However, after serving more than a year, the Indian
courts had acquitted them on September 23, 1999 but they are not
released yet as Burmese authorities refused to take them back.

Out of 58, 26 are in Alipore Central Jail and 32 are in Presidency Jail.
On October 17,   they staged an indefinite hunger strike demanding for
their immediate release. Yesterday   afternoon, West Bengal Director
Inspector General (Prisons) Mr. P. D. Mondal along    with Burmese
embassy representative Mr. P.B. Chowdhury met the prisoners in the
jails   and assured that the two authorities would try for their early
release. At present, the jail   authorities are taking their photographs
and residential address of Burma to send to the   Burmese authorities
through Burmese embassy in New Delhi.

The prisoners are from various parts of Burma such as Irrawaddy
Division, Mon State,   Tanensari Division and Rangoon Division and they
belong to Mon, Rakhine, Burman,   Karen and other nationalities of
Burma. Although jail authorities did not allow our   reporter to see the
Burmese prisoners, the reporter managed to talk with them and ask   some
questions. ?I just want to go back home (Burma) immediately? said a
36-year old prisoner who left his wife and two daughters behind in
Rangoon. West   Bengal State Inspector General of prisoners Mr. Balkar
Singh told our reporter that the   prisoners are treated well in the
jail. ?They are happy in the jail. But they want to   go back home. We
are now taking necessary steps to send them back to Burma? said Mr.
Balkar Singh.