Prison Breaks pp 115-142 | Cite as

Chapter 4 Mocking the State: Heroism, Humanity and Humiliation in the Context of Naxal Jailbreaks in India

  • Atreyee Sen
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


This chapter will analyse the position, potentialities and politics of mass prison escapes in the context of violent, anti-state political movements in India. Indian security services identify contemporary anti-national insurgents as the most prominent danger to local government machineries. One such alleged menace is the banned Naxalite movement, composed of Communist Party of India (CPI) Maoist guerrilla groups that emerged as rebel factions within the history of Indian communism. Prominent state actors are involved in brutal counter-insurgency operations in Naxal-dominated areas, and the army, police and paramilitary commandos have played a significant role in the capture, torture and illegal deaths of Naxalites, their supporters, sympathizers and affiliates. This chapter offers a sociographic overview of recent and past jailbreaks by members of the Naxal movement and illustrates how the language of autonomy, human dignity and self-determination remains deeply embedded in the plotting, execution and aftermath of mass prison escapes. I show how the staging of organized, daring and well-planned prison attacks, revolts and escapes mocks and exposes the prison system as administrative and organizational disasters. I eventually argue that escaping the grip of the state through jailbreaks led by anti-state, pro-poor political prisoners becomes a subaltern moral triumph, which may not institute deep-seated social change, but allows both the postcolonial state and the citizens to reflect on the discriminatory misuse of state-sanctioned power on the ground.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atreyee Sen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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