Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir – Arun Ferreira


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n May 2007, human rights activist Arun Ferreira was picked up from the railway station and arrested by the Nagpur Police on charges of being a Naxalite. Over the next few months, he was charged with more crimes—of criminal conspiracy, murder, possession of arms and rioting, among others—and incarcerated in one of the most notorious prisons in Maharashtra, the Nagpur Central Jail.

This is an account of the nearly five years that Ferreira was imprisoned. We read in stark and unsparing detail about life in prison—the torture; the beatings; the corrupt system; the codes of behaviour among inmates; the strikes mounted by prisoners to protest brutality; the general air of helplessness and the small consolations that keep hope alive. In September 2011, Ferreira was acquitted of all charges and a breath away from freedom when he was re-arrested by plainclothes policemen at the prison gates. He never got a glimpse of his family who were waiting just outside. He began to fight the system all over again, until with the help of courageous friends and activists, he was cleared of all the trumped up charges that had put him in prison.

Colours of the Cageis the real story of what goes on behind bars— not the celluloid or novelistic version that readers will be familiar with. However, it is not just a gritty, harrowing account of life in prison but also a memoir of astonishing power and grace—about a man’s stubborn fight for justice and the triumph of the human will.

About the Author

Arun Ferreira is from the East Indian community, the original Mumbaikars, whose villages became the localities of a sprawling metropolis. He graduated from the prestigious St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and has been an activist since his student days.

Ferreira is also a cartoonist whose drawings on social and political issues have appeared in various publications, as well as in student and worker magazines. Since his release in 2012, he continues to actively engage with issues of political prisoners, prison reforms and democratic rights. He is presently pursuing a degree in law and researching the history of the democratic rights movement in Mumbai.


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