Guest Post by NITHEESH NARAYANAN
This account of a young student’s experience of a week in Tihar Jail as a political prisoner gives us the opportunity to reflect afresh on ‘appropriate’ punishment, in the context of the recently revived debates on the death penalty. In those debates, incarceration is assumed to be the more humane punishment, but Nitheesh’s account reopens even older debates on the prison itself as a mode of disciplining society (Foucault), Angela Davis’s stirring question – Are Prisons Obsolete? – in which she argues that the current prison system perpetuates the same power relations of race, class and gender that society is based upon, and widespread critiques of the prison industrial complex in the USA, where private corporations run prisons for profit, using prisoners as practically free labour. (It is alarming therefore, to see an argument for privatizing prisons in India being put forward as a measure to “reform” prisons!)
Here then, offering us a view of prison as a microcosmic reflection of every oppressive power structure outside it, is Nitheesh Narayanan:
Tihar Jail, Central Jail no. 4, Ward no.1, and seven days spent in Barracks 1, 2 and 3. Around thirty of us, including SFI’s National President Com. V Sivadasan and some comrades from JNU decided on a protest demonstration at Kerala House, New Delhi, in solidarity with the series of protests in Kerala against the Chief Minister involved in the Solar Panel scam and to mark our indignation at any form of corruption. There were no policemen at the gate as the protest was unexpected. We entered the compound and sat in the portico of the main building. We burned Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandi’s effigy, raising slogans all the while. It was when Com. Sivadasan was addressing the protestors that about a hundred policemen entered the compound and started unleashing violence on us and arrested us. Nine of us were booked under severe offences.
We spent that night in a shabby lockup room full of filth and spit, lying on a newspaper sheet. One of the inmates in that lock-up room was an accused in a crime involving a core and a half rupees and a murder. We were shocked when he told us that in order to weaken the charges against him, he had poured almost fifteen lakhs into the pockets of corrupted officials. Continue reading A Tihar Experience: Nitheesh Narayanan