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SELECTED EXHIBITS SUBMITTED BY MRS. FERNANDES
Exhibit 1: Letter of George Fernandes to Indira Gandhi
Mrs. INDIRA NEHRU GANDHI,
JULY 27, 1975.
I note that I have been particularly singled out for a lot of publicity ever since you assumed the role of a Dictator.
First, the railway strike of May, 1974 is still haunting you. You see in it the grand design of reactionaries to overthrow you.
You know that the railway strike was for the legitimate demands of railwaymen. You know that your own CPI and AITUC who are sworn to defend you and your dictatorship to the last drop of the people's blood were active participants in the strike. When you still keep raking up the railway strike issue and indulge in your perverted and false propaganda after shutting us out from replying your wild accusations, you are also doing great disservice to CPI Chairman S. A. Dange who hailed the May 1974 strike as a great struggle of the working people and compared you to the medieval period rulers of Europe, to CPI M. P. Parvati Krishnan who spent a week in prison and to the thousands of your big and small puppets in the C.P.I.
And, when the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) to which your own Congress scab-unions are affiliated decided to send a fact-finding mission to India, your government, in true fascist style, refused permission to the ITF Mission to enter the country. So, please stop lying on the railway strike.
Second, you have charged that I received large foreign funds during the railway strike in May-June, 1974.
That is the damnedest lie you must have uttered in your whole life of lies. If this were the case, why the hell did you wait for one whole year to make this charge? Produce the evidence, put me on trial, and get me shot if what you say is true. All dictators are congenital liars, but you, Madam, excel them all. Third, your publicists including the Russian patriots in India have written that I have received dollars from Japanese institutions and American institutions. You have cited two drafts, one for 68 thousand dollars and the other for 17 thousand dollars cleared by the Bank of Tokyo in June, 1975. You jolly well know that these two drafts were presented to the All India Railwaymen's Federation by two Unions of Japanese railwaymen at the fiftieth annual conference of the Federation in Jodhpur on May 27, 1975. The Japanese Railwaymen's Union (KOKURO) presented the check for 68 thousand dollars and the Japanese Locomotive Engineers' Union (DORO) presented the check for 17 thousand dollars. This money was the contribution of individual Japanese railwaymen to their Indian colleagues and, though was earlier meant to provide relief to the railwaymen thrown out of employment by you in May, 1974, was actually presented by them for trade union education activities of Indian railwaymen. Six leaders of these two Japanese railwaymen's unions, all militant trade unionists and socialists attended the AIRF Conference as fraternal delegates along with a three-man delegation from the railwaymen's Union of Turkey. How dare you accuse the Japanese railwaymen of being American stooges? And what perversity of mind you and your propagandists display when you charge me with receiving foreign money? Every paisa of the gift received by the AIRF has been deposited in the bank and is lying there. Madam dictator, can you not show even a semblance of respect for truth and decency, even assuming that in your desperate quest for power, you have to indulge in the most calumnous campaign against me.
Fourth, I am supposed to have written to Chairman Mao of the Republic of China complaining about the suppression of the railway workers' strike by you in May last year.
Before dealing with Mao, let us have the facts straight. Are you suggesting that you did not suppress the railwaymen's struggle by using repressive measures unheard of in the recent history of our country which made even President V. V. Giri get disgusted with you and which were condemned by the working people all over the world including the WFTU of which your patrons, the Russians, are the godfathers.
And, Madam Dictator, will you please publish the text of my letter to Mao and provide further evidence of your perverted mind in dealing with your political opponents.
In December, 1974, there was a news report in the Indian press date-lined Hong Kong that the Chinese railwaymen were on strike to press their demands and that the army had refused to break the strike. The All India Railwaymen's Federation staged a demonstration before the Chinese Embassy to condemn the reported efforts of the Chinese government to break the strike by using the army and to extend moral support to the Chinese railway workers. I led this demonstration. A memorandum addressed to Chairman Mao was sought to be handled over to the Chinese Embassy officials, but the Embassy had closed its gates on us. On the advice of your police, which was guarding the Embassy gates, the memorandum enclosed in an envelope was thrown into the Embassy compound. The memorandum extended support to the Chinese railway workers, called upon Chairman Mao not to suppress the workers, and urged that the railway workers' demands should be met. And in that context, the memorandum referred to your suppression of the strike of Indian railwaymen.
(Incidentally, in January, 1975, I was to learn that the story of the Chinese railway workers' strike was a Russian canard planted through your courtesy in the Indian press with a view to damn the Chinese government.)
And, Madam Dictator, if your effort is to suggest that I am a Chinese agent too, besides being an American agent, may I remind you that I am the same George Fernandes about whom your father publicly apologized to China's PrimeMinister Chou En Lai. The white paper on the India-China dispute contains your father's letter to the Chinese Premier.
Fifth, you have, in a letter to some leader of the Muslim League in Kerala, refuted my charge that you are the most communal-minded person. My charge against you has been publicly made during the last three years, both in my speeches and writings, and has been carried by the national press on many occasions. But you waited till you became a dictator and imposed press censorship to refute my charge. I repeat my charge that during the last war with Pakistan, you, as the Home Minister, issued a secret circular which required all public sector undertakings and government departments to see that Muslims were not employed in the key installations and positions.
Accordingly, Muslims working as Controllers in the BEST Undertaking in Bombay were removed from their positions and put to work as Inspectors. Muslims employed at Vaitasna Water Works of the Bombay Municipal Corporation were removed from their positions and transferred to the city, away from their families. Muslims in the Bhaba Atomic Centre were terminated from service with one month's pay in their hands. I intervened on behalf of these Muslim workers with the managements to no avail.
I also repeat my charge that Muslims in India are denied equality of opportunity and in the matter of jobs in Army, police and other public services; they are discriminated against. I can prove this by facts and figures. The point is how to do it in a dictatorship.
Lastly, may I demand that you show the courage to publish this note and be damned.
Exhibit 6: Letter from Alice Fernandes to the President of India Concerning Her Son, Lawrence Fernandes
From: Smt. Alice Fernandes, 3, Leonard Road, Bangalore.
To: The President of India, New Delhi.
Sub: Brutal torture of my son, Lawrence Fernandes, by Police.
MAY 24, 1976.
Sir: It is with a heavy, sorrow-stricken heart that I am writing this, further to my letter dated 12, 1976 (copy enclosed for ready reference), with the hope
of obtaining justice at your hands. I am an old lady of 65 years, and my 75 year old husband is a heart patient. The recent events narrated hereunder have left us terribly shaken and griefstricken.
On Saturday, May 1 at about 9 p.m., my 44 year old second son, Lawrence Fernandes, was taken away from our residence by the police, on the pretext that they wanted to interrogate him about the Habeas Corpus petition filed in February before the Karnataka High Court by my third son, Michael Fernandes (an officer of the Indian Telephone Industries and a trade union leader) who has been detained without trial under MISA in prison since December 22, 1975. After keeping up this pretext for about an hour, the police began questioning him about the whereabouts of my eldest son, George Fernandes, and then subjected him in a most inhuman, reckless and ruthless manner to third degree methods of physical torture, going on with this torture into the small hours of the morning until about 3:00 a.m. Besides beating him with clubs (until five of them were broken to pieces) they used a banyan tree root to clout him with and booted him and slapped him. They also used vulgar language in abusing him and our family, and threatened him that if he did not reveal the whereabouts of George Fernandes he would be thrown on the railway tracks and killed under a moving train leaving no evidence of their hand in his death. They were actually preparing to do so at about 3:00 a.m. when his physical condition had deteriorated to an almost irreparable state. After thus reducing him to a condition of a physical, mental and nervous wreck he was kept in solitary confinement in different police lockups in the most unhygienic condition until May 20 during which period he was subjected to further torture and interrogation. He was kept without food for three days, and was not given proper food on other days, nor allowed cigarettes. During all these 20 days he was allowed bath only on 3 days and made to remain in the same clothes in which he was when he was taken away on May 1. He had become unconscious as a result of this inhuman treatment. He was taken to different doctors and hospitals, each time under a different and false name impersonating him as a police officer, for treatment to keep him alive. On one night a doctor was brought to the police station itself for treating him.
On May 9, my son was taken by police car to 300 km. far away Davangere and on May 10 produced before the magistrate there as though arrested in Davangere on the previous day. He was tortured and kept in a closed lockup there until May 11 and then brought back to Bangalore.
He was continuously interrogated about the whereabouts of George Fernandes. He was refused lawyer's help and not allowed to contact home or anybody else either by letter or by phone. He was not allowed newspapers and kept in solitary confinement. He was threatened with dire consequences if he reported to the magistrate or anybody else about the torture. Finally on May 20, he was produced in the 2nd Metropolitan Magistrate's chambers during lunch time and then removed to the Bangalore Central Prison where he has been detained in a cell meant for condemned criminals or for convicts who are mentally unsound or are under punishment for violation of jail rules.
In addition to oral complaints, I had lodged written complaints, sent telegrams and letters to all concerned from the highest to the lowest level of authority but without any result and without even an acknowledgement, and the whereabouts of my son Lawrence had not been informed to us. On May 20 upon being informed by a lawyer, I went to the prison and although I waited along with the lawyer from 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., I was not allowed to meet my son. On the 21st, after waiting for over 3 hours from 10:45 a.m., at about 2:00 p.m. I was taken to the cell to see him, but not the lawyer. I found him looking dead. He was unable to move except without two persons helping him about, and then too with great pain and limping. His left side is without use as if crippled, and both his left leg and hand are still swollen. He is in a mentally and physically wrecked condition and is unable to talk freely without faltering. He is terribly nervous and mortally afraid of police, of anyone in khaki uniform, of the approaching sound of anyone walking with shoes on, or of any other person, all of whom he fears to be interrogators and tormentors. He looks completely haggard and he has lost at least 20 kg. during these 20 days.
His lawyer was allowed to meet him at about 6:30 p.m. on May 21, that is more than 24 hours after he was put in the cell.
As if to deal a further blow, yet another page was added to this sordid, inhuman act by serving on him in the prison in the afternoon of May 22, an order of detention dated May 21, signed by the Commissioner of Police detaining
him under MISA, after which also he has been kept in the same cell without the benefit of the company of the other MISA detenues.
When the Prime Minister, Home Ministers and her other ministers keep telling the public in our country and also people abroad that the political prisoners here are well looked after and there is no torture or inhuman acts against them by the police, and when the Supreme Court judgement of April 28 in the Habeas Corpus Petitions case insists that no instances of misuse of executive power have come to the notice of the Supreme Court, etc., am I to believe that the torture of son is a humane act on behalf of the Government? Or am I to believe that all this is part of some deliberate, diabolical design against my family? Are my two sons being held hostages for George Fernandes whose present whereabouts or condition my entire family is totally unaware of? Is it moral or right that my family should be so harassed and tormented for the political views held by my son George Fernandes?
Whatever I have stated here is on the basis of what the family could gather from Lawrence during the visits to him in the cell. For obvious reasons it is not quite exhaustive. Without going into the political undertones of these events, about which I understand precious little, I urge upon you in the name of all that is good in civilized conduct of human beings and their governments, and in the name of justice to order a thorough judicial enquiry into this barbaric torture etc. and take suitable action against the concerned authorities.
I also urge that he should be transferred to a good hospital and specialist medical and psychiatric treatment be given to him and daily visits to him by the family allowed so that he may regain his mental and physical health and become a human being. I am sure that if I don't get justice from the Almighty God who is above all the almighty persons on this earth will punish the wrong doers or that Nemesis will take its toll sooner or later.
I trust that the receipt of this letter will also be acknowledged and action prayed for taken immediately.
(Signed) ALICE FERNANDES.
Exhibit 7: Copy of Letter Submitted to the Editor, The Times (London) from the Political Detainees of Tihar Jail, Delhi
New Delhi, August 18, 1976.
New Printing House Square,
People in India, more so those of us who are political detenues in jail, have been denied access to the "hostile" western press or opinion. But any favourable comment on, or expressed support to the dictatorship of Mrs. Gandhi is extensively reported in the managed and controlled Indian Press.
One such report that has been publicised extensively is the speech of Jennie Lee at an Indian Independence Day meeting in London. She is reported to have reiterated her favourable views of Mrs. Gandhi and her regime, and how she was justified in denying the basic freedoms to the Indian people for their own sake. Such statements coming from Jennie, who with Aneurin Bevan, was a source of admiration and pride to young Indian democrats and socialists, are not longer a surprise as she has been singing this refrain during and after her visit to India last year. But her statement that she has personal knowledge of the treatment of political prisoners and that they are treated very well, is a gratuitous insult.
We do not know how Jennie aquired her personal knowledge. Most certainly not by meeting political prisoners or visiting jails where they are lodged. We wish she had visited us in Tihar Central Jail in the capital of the country which is administered and controlled directly by the Central Government and seen for herself the state of affairs.
No rules govern our detention, advisedly, we presume, because then it would be officially known the precise nature of the conditions of our detention, and the facilities given to us. Basic creature comforts and privacy such as lavatory and bathing facilities have been denied to us. We bathe under a tap in the open-rain, summer, or winter. Lavatories are filthy and inadequate. Prisoners are packed three to a cell and have no facilities for reading or writing. Drains stagnate for months breeding mosquitoes and emitting foul smells. The
municipal authorities would not certify the wards where we live as fit for human habitation. Food is unbalanced, inadequate and cooked and served in unhygenic conditions. After assuming responsibility for maintenance we are given one pair of clothes once in a while at the discretion of the administration. Medical facilities exist in name only. The jail hospital centre often has no thermometers. The doctors do not use a stethoscope or B.P. instruments to examine patients, and dole out an all purpose analgesic for all aches and pains. Serious cases have deteriorated because of neglect. Resultant deaths have not been uncommon. What relief we have received is through courts who have fortunately held that no punitive condition can be introduced into what is said to be preventive detention. As a result, however, we have had to suffer vengeful penalties.
Senility and surrender have and do bring relief. As we do not propose to submit to arbitrary treatment despite repeated representation, we propose to go on relay hunger strike from 1st September.
This then is the general treatment meted out to us in detention. Individuals have in addition been singled out for beatings and punishment. Recently, a member of the ruling congress and a sitting member of the Metropolitan Council was assaulted by convicts at the request of and in the presence of the Superintendant of the Jail. Police brutality on the streets and in lock-ups is so common that we have to accept it as a risk that political dissentees have to run. A recent instance is of a brother of George Fernandes who was recently given the full treatment for three weeks, causing fractures and permanent damage to his vital organs. Students of Delhi University were picked up a couple of days before 26th June and were given a severe and continuous beating for ten days in police lock-ups and otherwise tortured. One of them was brought in here bleeding internally and is still unwell.
And yet, Jennie Lee claims to have knowledge of humane treatment. We suggest that she visits India again, not at the invitation of the Government of India whose hospitality she enjoyed last year, but on behalf of Amnesty International. Amnesty, we are sure would finance her trip. Because of her often proclaimed support of Mrs. Gandhi, she should have no difficulty in obtaining the permission to visit us, a permission that has so far been refused to others who have tried to ascertain the truth. She would then see for herself the truth or otherwise of Mrs. Gandhi's claims, reinforced by her certificate, that we are treated as human beings.
Exhibit 8: A Christmas Newsletter by George Fernandes from the Underground in India, 1975
Constantly on the move from one part of the country to another, changing houses sometimes three times a day just to stay one step ahead of the dictators hounds, and with a mind preoccupied with the immediate problems of the struggle for the restoration of the lost values and the freedoms denied, it has indeed been difficult for me to keep up with my study of current affairs what to speak of some reading for pleasure. Nevertheless, books have given me company during these weeks and months more particularly when, for obvious reasons, for varying spells, I have been deprived of the joy one derives from the warmth of human companionship. It has, of course, not been possible to be choosy with books, and I have greedily grabbed at anything that came my way, from a stray Greek classic to even a Kushwant Singh collection of silly short stories with a buxom nude with her rump up on the cover. It is, however, the occasional book of poetry that has provided me with lingering joy and not little inspiration. I have never really been a connoisseur of poetry, though I should admit that I have often found greater pleasure in reading the most pedestrian verse than while poring over the most stylish prose. Maybe it is because the muse always reflects ones moods while prose is but prosaic.
When Madam turned dictator on June 26, 1975, her censorship laws did something that even the most perversely anti-Indian English ruler had not contemplated doing during the days of the Raj. She forbade the people from quoting Jawaharlal Nehru on such subjects as freedom of the press, civil liberties and fascist tyranny. She banned Mahatma Gandhi from public expression. Across the country people were arrested for wearing a badge of Gandhiji's picture with the legend "Be Fearless". In Bangalore, Gandhian activists distributing Mahatma Gandhi's pictures and quotes for the times were taken to police lock-ups. Their indignant protests provoked the following crude retort from the