6 years of undertrial under draconian UAPA; Activist dies in custody

Students rights activist Kanchan Nanaware, who was arrested in 2014 for her alleged Maoist links and had been awaiting trial for six years, succumbed to a heart and brain ailment in a hospital in Pune on Sunday.

Of the nine cases that Nanaware was booked in, the 38 year old activist from Adivasi community was already acquitted in six cases.

Her family told The Wire that ‘Nanware was born with a congenital heart illness, had developed a brain ailment in the past week.

The family and lawyers alleged that neither the jail nor hospital authorities informed them till her brain surgery was conducted on January 16.

In the past two years, Nanaware, through her lawyer, had moved both the Sessions Court and Bombay High Court for bail on several occasions.

“Each time, it was rejected,” lawyer Parth Shah says.

In October, an application was moved before the Bombay High Court on medical grounds, and Nanaware’s deteriorating health condition along with the doctors’ recommendation for a heart transplant were placed on record before the Court.

But the matter took months to be heard and Nanaware succumbed to her ailments.

According to The Wire, of the nine cases that Nanaware was booked in, she was already acquitted in six. Three cases – one each in Gadchiroli, Pune and Gondiya – were still pending.

Rohan Nahar, also Nanaware’s advocate, noted that even in the cases that led to her arrest in 2014, Nanaware was never convicted.

“But it is unfortunate that her health condition did not push the courts to give a favourable order and grant her bail. She was accused of Maoist activities and the tragedy is we would never know whether she was really involved. She was punished through her incarceration.”

Nanaware was arrested along with her husband Arun Belke, and booked under several sections of draconian UAPA.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad alleged that they were members of the “Golden Corridor Committee’’ of Maoists, who were trying to recruit cadres from urban areas. However, not yet convicted.

Journalist Sukanya Shanta who reported the death of Nanaware tweeted that close to 1800 persons die in Indian prisons every year.

“Over 90 percent cases are termed as ‘natural death’ in prison statistics.
Kanchan Nanaware’s death tells us there is nothing “natural” about these deaths. It’s plain institutional murder,” she said.