Saibaba, an English teacher with 90 percent disability, and five others were convicted on March 7, 2017 by Gadchiroli sessions court in Maharashtra for allegedly having links with Maoists. The judgment was built on flimsy grounds, concocted evidences and tutored witnesses. Saibaba was first arrested in 2014, after 14 months stay in the Nagapur Central Jail, Supreme Court granted him bail on June 2016 as his health condition deteriorated. Saibaba and four others have been sentenced to life imprisonment under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Another accused Vijay Tirki was sentenced for ten years rigorous prison term. Though all six have been convicted, none of them has been remotely linked to any terrorist and disruptive activities. What is more worrisome is the judge himself admits that it is only the law of the land that stops him from exterminating those who stands in the way of development. And in addition he says “His hands were tied by law which did not permit him to deliver a judgment beyond life imprisonment else could do so”. Saibaba was fighting for people’s rights and everything was within the ambit of Constitution. But he was denied basic rights such as medical treatment. When judiciary itself starts bypassing its role, then it points towards a dying democracy. It is ironic that even while holding these six people are so dangerous that they should be incarcerated for major part of their lives, the judgment fails to point out a single instance of violence that these people have been conspirators in or lent logistic support to.
Dr. GN Saibaba’s case needs a special mention not only due to his 90 percent disability, but also due to his failing health conditions. In fact just before the judgment was delivered, Saibaba was hospitalized and was undergoing treatment for gall bladder stones. Apart from chronic issues with his heart and high blood pressure, Saibaba was also suffering from acute gastric condition resulting in cardiac condition along with palpitations. It was indeed the prolonged incarceration in the infamousanda cell as an under trial that worsened his condition to this level. Now even before he could fully recuperate, the judgment has been delivered and we fear that given the dismal track record of the Nagapur jail authorities in caring for his health, his life is in peril. As Hem Mishra’s father said“in this Democracy, freedom is only for the ruling classes but the marginalized people and those who stand with their struggles are being persecuted”. Saibaba was in pre-operative treatment when he was convicted in March and immediately incarcerated and, instead of providing lifesaving treatment, the prison staff have refused to let him be attended by the jail doctor. The condition of Saibaba, currently lodged at anda cell of Nagapur central jail, was deteriorating day by day. He is unable to urinate and his stomach ache had worsened. Before his arrest, Saibaba was undergoing a treatment at Rockland hospital in Delhi. The doctors there had advised surgery for removal of his gall bladder. Despite availing bail, most of his time was spent in hospitals in Delhi and Hyderabad for the multiple ailments he was suffering from. Particularly this time earlier to his travel on the Day of Judgment he was in the hospital admitted with chest pain. In the test it was found that his Pancreas has damaged in gall bladder and to be operated within three weeks. It is not to say that this health report is to be considered on humanitarian grounds by the court but only register the protest against the extra-legal observation of the judgment.
It’s a gross violation of justice which puts all democratic values on trial. It is an attack on all sections of intellectuals, teachers and students who espouse and cherish the value of ideas, progressive thought and dissent. Hence, there is a need for a cross-section of teachers and students to come together to speak up against the stifling of voices in universities and space across the country. This judgment strikes at the very core idea of the right to exchange ideas and values. What cannot be over looked is the alarming disparity between various judgment that have come in recent times where those against whom there are clear evidences of instigating mob violence, engineering riots and blasts were acquitted by higher courts.Witch hunting is going on against those raising issues of human rights violations of tribals through operation green hunt etc. the sessions court ignored his health, as he was supposed to undergo a surgery, and sent him a jail on life term. The judgment says that ‘though GN Saibaba is 90 percent disabled, he is mentally alert’.The public prosecutor was responding on the judgment with an observation that it is the first time the white collar Maoists are punished, and it is a message to the intellectuals outside who are supporting Maoist ideology. This proves a venomous mindset of the state. Hence, one has to come to conclusion that this is not a judicious judgment based on the natural justice or the law of the land but given the political prejudice against any kind of dissent against sate. People were prosecuted for ideas in medieval period and that is happening here now. This is not merely a legal battle but a fight to protect democracy.
TVV is demanding the unconditional release of GN Saibaba and the other five, provide complete medical facilities, and also appealing to all progressive and democratic sections to mobilize the people and raise concern over the political climate in the country where all forms of dissent are been criminalized.
Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (Tvv), Hyderabad Central University