Statement of condemnation of the order to send Dr. G.N. Saibaba back to prison

January 1, 2016

COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENSE AND RELEASE OF DR. G N SAIBABA

It is shocking to hear the news that Dr. G.N Saibaba’s application for permanent bail was rejected today by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. What is further appalling is that the High Court has also dismissed Saibaba’s interim bail order (Criminal Application No.785/2015), that was issued by a division bench led by the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Justice Mohit Shah along with Justice Shukre on 30/06/2015 which granted him interim relief which in turn was extended by the same division bench till 31st December 2015, to avail treatments for his serious medical conditions. It was only after many democratic voices raised an alarm about the rapidly failing health condition of Saibaba, that the Bombay High Court intervened on the basis of a letter written to the Chief Justice by an activist named Purnima Upadhyay. The letter, which was suo moto converted to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by the High Court, resulted in Dr. Saibaba being granted temporary bail. Interrupting his ongoing treatment, the new judgment by a single judge of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered Dr. Saibaba to surrender himself to the Nagpur prison within 48 hours! The order further statesupon failure to do so, he shall be arrested by the police.

Dr G N Saibaba—a wheel chair bound, 90 percent disabled professor teaching English literature at the Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi University—is currently undergoing treatment after he was released on bail on medical grounds. The highly inhospitable conditions of the notorious anda cell of the Nagpur Central Jail had further deteriorated his multiple health problems. The extreme insensitivity of the prison authorities clubbed with a vengeful administrative apparatus coordinated from the Centre had nearly ensured that the medical complications had become life-threatening. This is demonstrative of the level of cruelty with which a differently-abled person is treated in the prison!

After his release on temporary bail, Dr. Saibaba has been undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Delhi for multiple health problems pertaining to the heart, spinal cord, kidneys, gall bladder and the left shoulder (which had became totally dysfunctional in prison owing to muscle death). The treatment that Saibaba is being subject to is far from being over and needs to continue under specialist doctors and can happen only in Delhi. The doctors who were treating him have unambiguously stated the same. In this situation the cancellation of his bail and forcing him back to the same hostile prison is going to seriously affect his health conditions, probably beyond any recuperation. The rejection of bail in this situation therefore is unacceptable and inhuman.

But more than being just inhuman and insensitive, what this yet again lays bare is the intolerance of the Indian state towards any voice of dissent. The fact that it can go to the extent of yet again putting a ninety percent disabled professor back inanda cell after being released last time from near-fatal conditions is deeply disconcerting. The well-designed framing and branding by the corporate media, the sensationalized police raids at his warden’s flat in Delhi Univ., the abduction of Saibaba by the Maharashtra police, his subsequent incarceration in May 2015 were all part of a desperate attempt at silencing dissent. It is a part of Indian state’s brutal war on the tribal people in Central and Eastern India codenamed Operation Green Hunt. It is aimed at silencing one of the most prominent and effective voices against Green Hunt and the Indian state’s anti-people policies introduced under the garb of “development”. The current interruption in his medical treatment, after pushing him to the verge of death inside prison, only shows the desperation with which the state wants to silence such voices of dissent.

The glaring instances of state’s fascist tendencies is yet again laid bare when the same High Court judgment that cancelled Saibaba’s bail petition also ordered proceedings for criminal contempt to be initiated against Arundhati Roy for her article titled Professor, POW against GN Saibaba’s incarceration that was published in Outlook magazine on 18th May, 2015. The Order has issued notice to the author for action for contempt of Court, returnable on 25.01.2016. We condemn this outright throttling of freedom of speech and expressions.

Finally, it is rather disturbing that while all the five other co-accused in the same case along with GN Saibaba has already been granted regular bail, a ninety percent disabled professor is being denied the same. We condemn this rejection of permanent bail of GN Saibaba and the quashing of his interim bail in no uncertain terms and appeal to all progressive and democratic people to immediately stand up to such a travesty of justice. We must in unison ensure by any and every means possible that Dr. GN Saibaba is not incarcerated once again. At a time when fascism is tightening its tentacles and choking our voices, such occasions as this demands that we show the limits of our tolerance towards such injustice being meted out in the name of law under the garb of democracy.

Sd-/

Hany Babu M T
Associate Professor, University of Delhi

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Is a democracy a real democracy, if I can’t say that it is not a real democracy?

On 23rd of December, the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court passed an atrocious judgment. It not only cancelled the regular bail petiton of Dr. Saibaba, but also ordered that Saibaba, who was out on temporary bail to avail much crucial medical treatments for his multiple ailments, should go back to prison. That too within 48 hours! The timing of pronouncing the judgment was not without calculations. Because of the Christmas vacations, Saibaba was not left with any possibility to explore legal relief from the Supreme Court. He had no other options but to go back to the notorious anda cell of Nagpur prison, from where he had come out in June after spending 14 months there. The High Court refused to take into cognizance the necessity of continuing Saibaba’s treatments and deemed him ‘fit’ to go back to prison. The same judgment also initiated criminal proceedings for “contempt of court” against writer & activist Arundhati Roy for the ‘crime’ of writing an article ‘Professor PoW’ on Saibaba in Outlook last May!

Prof. Saibaba, 90% disabled wheel chair bound Professor of English in Ram Lal Anand College DU was abducted from Delhi and taken to Nagpur by the Maharashtra police in May 2014. He was framed as a Maoist and was booked under the draconian UAPA. His trial is going on at the usual snail’s pace in the court, however, five other accused persons in the same case have all been granted regular bail. Saibaba was released on temporary bail granted suo-moto by the division bench of Bombay High Court, led by the then Chief Justice. The Bombay High Court noted with alarm that the progressive degeneration of his health in custody was becoming life threatening. The jail authorities through their deliberate negligence of his medical condition were about to kill him in custody. Saibaba, who is wheel chair bound and cannot walk at all, was left without any assistance in the anda cell. He quickly developed problems in his spinal cord, followed by complications in heart, kidney and gall bladder. Most seriously his left arm became completely paralysed owing to gradual muscle deaths. For the longest time the jail authorities refused to build even a disability-friendly toilet for him. Repeated intervention from the Court was sought and Saibaba once went on hunger strike to avail his treatments. Finally the Chief Justice sensing the gravity of his ailments granted him temporary bail for three months and as his doctors sought more time, he extended it for three more months. Well neither those three months were over, nor did the doctors supervising Saibaba declared him fit. He was rather in the middle of treatment and the muscles of his left hand were slowly regenerating. In such a context the order to send him back to prison is just yet another manifestation of the fact that the judiciary in our country can selectively flout all norms and strike most ruthlessly at the voices of dissent or at the most oppressed people, when it allows itself to be a potent weapon in the hands of the ruling class. While working as a stooge of the ruling class, it allows mass-murderers, rioters and brazenly corrupt people walk scot free starting from Ranvir Sena to RSS. But at the same time, those of the likes of Saibaba – who was a tireless voice against the brutal war waged by the Indian state against the adivasis at the behest of the corporate and mining mafias, who was vocal against all forms of oppression against the dalits, minorities, workers and oppressed nationalities – are identified as “threats”.

The case against Arundhati Roy also demonstrates the same. All that she did in her article was to show how Saibaba is being denied the most basic rights in prison, how he was meticulously framed and how the discriminatory justice brazenly pervades in the country. That the judiciary denies bail and medical treatment to a wheelchair bound Professor, who is fearlessly outspoken against the anti-people policies of the state, while notorious criminals and fascist goons like Babu Bajrangi, Maya Kodnani and Amit Shah are allowed to go scot free and are provided best of health care and hospital facilities when they are in custody! The judgment however proclaimed “speaking such facts only reveals the author appears to have invented a novel idea of bashing the Central Government, the State Government, the Police machinery so also judiciary and that was, prima facie, with a mala fide motive to interfere in the administration of justice. The language used by the author in her article against the Government and the police machinery is as nasty as it could be and one really wonders whether the same would befit to the prestigious awards the author is said to have won. Calling the Government and police as being “afraid” of the applicant, “abductor” and “thief” and the Magistrate from a “small town”, demonstrate the surly, rude and boorish attitude of the author in the most tolerant country like India”! If at all, this order in fact demonstrates the intolerance of the judiciary towards freedom of speech and particularly criticality & dissent! So the judiciary henceforth will blatantly breathe over every shoulder and control and arm twist every opinion that generates dissent and opposition.

As the tentacles of fascism, choke every democratic voice with bullets and bars of prison, with threats and intimidation, with draconian laws and witch-hunting of dissenters; we need to raise louder voices of protest and fight back this assault on our democratic rights. The attack on Saibaba or Arundhati Roy is an attack on each and every democratic minded person in the country. We must resist in unison such attempts by the state to silence the voices of dissent. We must strike back at fascism and build a united resistance to safeguard our hard earned democratic rights.

– Anirban, Asawthi, Balakrishnan, Deepti, Komal, Neyaz, Reyaz, Samar, Srilakshmi, Ufaque, Umar

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Statement by Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union

JNUSU condemns the arbitrary re-arrest of Prof. G.N. Saibaba, who has been sent to the same “anda cell” once again which had led to rapid deterioration in his health. In jail, he was subjected to the most inhuman treatment, which has led to his left hand becoming paralysed. A victim of media trial, Saibaba has been denied bail by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, which is a single-judge bench, overturning the interim bail granted by a Division bench of the Bombay High Court. What dire threat to the state is posed by a person who is confined to a wheelchair and whose “alleged” links with Maoists have not been proven even after 19 months of his arrest in May, 2014?

Saibaba is not accused of any heinous crime, neither has he been accused of direct incitement to violence or abetment of violence. His only crime seems to be that he has asked inconvenient questions, that he has questioned the flawed developmental regimes of the present times that have rendered millions homeless and without livelihood. Besides this, author Arundhati Roy has been charged with contempt of court. Such actions reek of pure vendetta against dissenting voices.

We urge all democratic sections to join a protest called by COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENCE AND RELEASE OF DR. G.N. SAIBABA on 2nd Jan, 2016 at Jantar Mantar from 12 noon.

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Statement from Indian Workers Association (COC) Great Britain

Dr. G N Saibaba was abducted on 9th May 2014 from the Delhi University North Campus by the Maharashtra police. He was framed as a Maoist and charged under the draconian UAPA legislation and incarcerated in the Nagpur Central Jail for over a year. Thus Saibaba became another statistic amongst the 300,000 or so under-trial detainees held in the overcrowded Indian prisons.

Dr. Saibaba, at the time of his abduction, was 90% disabled – wheel chair bound, with no use of legs. Saibaba was left without any assistance in solitary confinement in the notorious anda cell. He quickly developed problems in his spinal cord, followed by complications in heart, kidney and gall bladder. Most seriously his left arm became completely paralyzed owing to gradual muscle deaths. The prison authorities acting under the Central Government command were on the way to kill Saibaba in prison. A concerted campaign from democratic and human rights activists both within India and abroad brought about enough pressure on the Indian authorities to make them release Dr. Saibaba on bail for medical treatment. The Indian High Court granted Dr. Saibaba three months bail for this purpose on 30 June 2015.

Dr. Saibaba has been receiving treatment at various hospitals in Delhi. His applications for a permanent bail was rejected by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court. On the recommendation of the doctors treating Saibaba, he managed get his bail period extended by a further three months. On 23 December 2015 a single judge from the same Court ‘has ordered Dr. Saibaba to surrender himself to the Nagpur prison within 48 hours’. This order takes no account of Dr. Saibaba’s serious ill health and it rubbishes the previous Court Order that allowed him at least until 31st December 2015 to receive medical treatment. The order to imprison Dr Saibaba back in Nagpur jail is nothing short of a barbaric act by the Indian state. The same High Court judgement has also ordered proceedings for criminal contempt against Arundhati Roy for her article, titled ‘Professor, POW’, against GN Saibaba’s incarceration that was published in Outlook magazine on 18th May, 2015.

A judge in the Court may not like or agree with what Dr. Saibaba or Arundhati Roy have said, however it is his duty to defend their right to free speech as per the Indian Constitution. Dr. Saibaba has bravely spoken against globalization, privatization and liberalization. He has put forward very strong and convincing arguments against the government’s so-called development programs that are designed to let multinational corporations acquire vast areas of land and loot the mineral wealth of the India. Dr. Saibaba has argued that this development will only benefit the rich and it will cost the Adivasis their homes, land, water and their jungles. The Adivasis are engaged in a life and death struggle against the State to preserve their environment. They are fighting against the might of India’s armed forces organized under such operations as Operation Green Hunt. Dr. Saibaba has tirelessly exposed the injustice that is being done to the Adivasis and for this he is wrongfully paying dearly. Arundhati Roy has boldly defended Dr. Saibaba’s right to speak his mind. She has rightly criticized the Court’s decision to deny him permanent bail. For this the State is hell bent to on punishing her.

IWA condemns in the strongest terms:

-Putting Dr. G N Saibaba back in jail
-Holding Dr. G N Saibaba under indefinite prison custody
-Refusing Dr. G N Saibaba proper medical care and treatment
-Court order proceedings for criminal contempt against Arundhati Roy

Henry David Thoreau: Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

President: Charan Athwal
General Secretary: Lekh Pall