Friday, March 17, 2017

Academics’ and professionals’ appeal against the life imprisonment of Prof. G N Saibaba.

It is with utter disbelief and deepest concern that we learn of Prof. G. N. Saibaba, a highly respected intellectual and Asst. Professor in the Dept. of English at Ram Lal Anand College, part of a Delhi University, has been sentenced to life imprisonment under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Prof. Saibaba is wheelchair-bound, 90% disabled with severe and fragile health conditions that warrant constant and now urgent medical attention. 
Saibaba, along with five others - a student, a journalist-activist and three young adivasi villagers have been accused of a criminal conspiracy to ‘wage war against the Government of India’ and of ‘links with a Maoist organisation.’
We register our strongest condemnation of the sentence and demand immediate release of Prof. Saibaba and all others accused, and that the concerned authorities conduct a thorough, fair and transparent investigation into the framing of this case.
For many years Saibaba has been outspoken regarding atrocities against the adivasis and for the welfare and rights of tribal and marginalised populations.
We are both appalled and shocked to learn of the circumstances under which a distinguished intellectual and true humanitarian has been framed in a case based entirely on un-convincing evidence stacked up against him in order to serve the draconian charge of Sedition and to suppress the democratic voice of students and academics. Saibaba’s treatment is clearing being used by the State as a message to other academics & intellectuals to silence any voice of dissent.
Without following any legal procedure Prof. Saibaba was abducted whilst en-route home from college on May 9th 2014 by plain-clothed policemen who stopped his car, dragged out the driver and drove Saibaba out of the university campus. It was only the following morning that notice was given of his arrest. Saibaba was then flown from Delhi to Nagpur where the District Magistrate heard his case and ordered him to be sent to prison. What followed were two harrowing years incarcerated in Nagpur Central Jail after being denied bail, medical care, necessary assistance and an adequate diet. During this time Saibaba’s health rapidly deteriorated.
It was only in April 2016 Prof. Saibaba was granted un-conditional bail by the Supreme Court. Saibaba then under-  went treatment for cardiac problems, stones in the gall bladder, pancreatitis, high blood pressure and physiotherapy for various orthopaedic problems that developed in the back and shoulder regions whilst he was in prison. He was not released from hospital until 28 February 2017.
During this time Prof. Saibaba was also dealing with severe pressure from his college administration who had violated the university system by freezing his salary and rejecting his re-instatement to work during the bail period.
Prof. Saibaba was due to undergo surgery within the following month. Instead he received orders to travel 300 miles to Gadchiroli Sessions Court on 6 March to attend the reading of the final order of his case. Saibaba was given to believe he would only need to present himself in court for two hours and therefore assumed he had been acquitted. To the contrary:  Saibaba was detained in custody immediately on arrival at court, treated as guilty even before the order was read and consequently the shocking sentence of life imprisonment was then delivered.
Given his orthopaedic condition and other serious ailments, Prof. Saibaba’s lawyer requested that an additional order be passed to provide Saibaba with assistants to at least enable him to move and perform daily functions. He also appealed for an order to safeguard Saibaba’s health, ensure his basic necessities and provide vital medical treatment whilst in jail. However, the judge point blank refused all requests.

Herein lies Indian democracy!

To the authorities in India that boast democratic rights to all Indians
We the undersigned academics and professionals urge:
  • The immediate release of Prof. G N Saibaba and the five others convicted under the UAPA.
  • To safeguard the health of Prof. G N Saibaba.
  • To fully investigate the framing of the case in which the above five have been convicted.
  • To repeal the draconian UAPA under which thousands of people (the majority of whom have not received bail nor can afford to pay for a defence lawyer) are left languishing for years on end in Indian prisons.

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