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Thursday, January 14, 2016

India: Continued persecution of political prisoner Saibaba and criminalization of his defense

From A World to Win News Service:

The following is excerpted from a press release by the Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba and the Delhi University Teachers' Association that appeared in Economic and Political Weekly. For more on Saibaba's arrest see awtwns140526. 

We, the Committee for the Defence and Release of G N Saibaba, along with the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA), held a protest in association with more than 40 organisations from all over Delhi and other states condemning the rearrest of Saibaba and the charge of contempt of court on Arundhati Roy. Saibaba is a professor of English in Ram Lal Anand College of Delhi University and a democratic rights activist who has spoken for the rights of Dalits [so-called "Untouchables"], Adivasis [tribal people] and oppressed masses for over 20 years and led a campaign against the state-sponsored war code-named Operation Green Hunt in Central India.
He also has 90 percent physical disability and moves in a wheelchair. Despite this, the Maharashtra state police has charged him under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), declared him a "dreaded Maoist", and held him in the anda [isolation] cell of the Nagpur Central Prison for 14 months. During this time, it was not able to prove any of the charges against him. He was released on interim bail by the Bombay High Court in May 2015 on medical grounds as his health deteriorated rapidly inside the jail.

However, while he was undergoing treatment for life-threatening ailments, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court cancelled his bail and alleged a "conspiracy" to establish medical grounds in its order of 23 December 2015. He was remanded back to the Nagpur Central Prison within 48 hours (when the courts were on winter vacation), so that he would not be able to challenge the order. This single bench judgement also charged writer and activist Arundhati Roy with contempt of court for writing an article titled "Professor, P.O.W" in Outlook magazine in May 2015 seeking Saibaba's release.

The united protest in Jantar Mantar on 2 January witnessed participation of parliamentarians, intellectuals, professors, students, cultural activists, workers, advocates, film-makers and democratic rights activists from across political orientations.

The novelist, essayist and activist Arundhati Roy addressed Indian public opinion in a May 2015 article "Professor P.O.W." contrasting the relentless persecution of political prisoner G N Saibaba with the Indian ruling party's generosity toward convicted murders associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modhi and the massacres of Muslims that marked his rise to power. She has been charged with contempt of court for for writing it and is scheduled to appear in court on 25 January. The following is an excerpt. For the full article go to

No matter what the charges against him are, should Professor Saibaba get bail? Here's a list of a few well-known public figures and government servants who have been given bail.

On 23 April, 2015, Babu Bajrangi, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre in which 97 people were murdered in broad daylight, was released on bail by the Gujarat High Court for an "urgent eye operation". This is Babu Bajrangi in his own words speaking about the crime he committed: "We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire, we set them on fire and killed them – hacked, burnt, set on fire.... We believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated. They're afraid of it." 

On 30 July, 2014, Maya Kodnani, a former minister of the Modi government in Gujarat, convicted and serving a 28-year sentence for being the ‘kingpin' of that same Naroda Patiya massacre, was granted bail by the Gujarat High Court. Kodnani is a medical doctor and says she suffers from intestinal tuberculosis, a heart condition, clinical depression and a spinal problem. Her sentence has been suspended.

Amit Shah, also a former minister in the Modi government in Gujarat, was arrested in July 2010, accused of ordering the extrajudicial killing of three people – Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. The CBI produced phone records showing that Shah was in constant touch with the police officials who held the victims in illegal custody before they were murdered, and that the number of phone calls between him and those police officials spiked sharply during those days. Amit Shah was released on bail three months after his arrest. (Subsequently, after a series of disturbing and mysterious events, he has been let off altogether.) He is currently the president of the BJP [India's governing party], and the right hand man of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On 22 May, 1987, 42 Muslim men rounded up in a truck by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were shot dead in cold blood on the outskirts of Hashimpura and their bodies were dumped in a canal. Nineteen members of the PAC were accused in the case. All of them were allowed to continue in service, receiving their promotions and bonuses like everybody else. Thirteen years later, in the year 2000, 16 of them surrendered (three had died). They were released on bail immediately. A few weeks ago, in March 2015, all 16 were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Hany Babu, a teacher in Delhi University and a member of the Committee for the Defence and Release of Saibaba, was recently able to meet Dr Saibaba for a few minutes in hospital. At a press conference on 23 April 2015 that went more or less unreported, Hany Babu described the circumstances of the meeting: Dr Saibaba, on a saline drip, sat up in bed and spoke to him. A security guard stood over him with an AK-47 pointed at his head. It was his duty to make sure the prisoner did not run away on his paralysed legs.

Will Dr Saibaba come out of the Nagpur central jail alive? Do they want him to? There is much to suggest they do not.

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