Civil society organizations and academic organizations from around the world have issued a joint letter to the Chief Justice of India expressing grave concern over the health of incarcerated English professor and social justice activist, GN Saibaba.
They requested the CJI to take notice of Professor Saibaba’s acute health condition and move to grant him medical bail and ensure that he gets immediate medical attention in a hospital. They note that Professor Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled and has tested positive for Covid twice, is currently held in solitary confinement in the Anda cell in Nagpur where he is steadily losing the functioning of his vital organs. His life sentence has effectively turned into a death sentence.
The letter highlights the ‘injustice’ of holding Professor Saibaba in prison for his ideas and notes that the brutal conditions of his imprisonment are “evidence of the extent to which political dissent is being suppressed in India”.
Remembering Father Stan Swamy, who died in custody at the age of eighty four suffering from Covid and other health complications, the signatories urge the CJI to act before the same fate falls another political prisoner; a poet, scholar, and social justice activist who has fought for the democratic rights of Adivasis, Dalits, women, religious minorities, and oppressed nationalities.
The petitioners said: “We know Prof. G.N. Saibaba not only as a member of the academic community, but also as a social justice activist who has fought for the democratic rights of the oppressed, Adivasis (indigenous people of India), Dalits (so-called untouchables), women, religious minorities, and oppressed nationalities. We also know that he is 90 per cent disabled and has been suffering from 19 chronic and acute post-polio medical conditions, some of which are fatal and need immediate medical intervention..”
“The Chief Medical Officer of Nagpur Central Prison repeatedly declared that Prof. Saibaba is suffering from many health complications such as high blood pressure, bilateral kidney stones, a gallbladder stone, and kyphoscoliosis-inducing rib crowding,” it further said.
Among the signatories are international groups such as Scholars At Risk (USA), PEN America (USA), Freedom Now (USA), the Free Saibaba Coalition-US, Stitching the London Story (the Netherlands), India Solidarity Germany (Germany), India Justice Project (Germany), Southern Illinois Democratic Socialists of America (USA), Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Association (UK), Indian American Muslim Council (USA), Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance (UK), Ambedkar King Study Circle (California, USA), Boston South Asian Coalition (USA), India Civil Watch International (USA), Hindus for Human Rights (USA). The complete letter and list of signatories may be seen here.
Who is Dr GN Saibaba?
Dr GN Saibaba is an Indian academic and human rights activist who is currently serving life imprisonment for his links with banned left-wing extremist organizations. Ailing from 90% paralysis, Saibaba was well known for speaking out against the human rights violations carried out during Operation Green Hunt; a military offensive launched by the then Congress government in 2009 with the sole aim of crushing Maoist rebels across the tribal belt of India.
Ever since, his arrest in 2017, Saibaba has been placed in an anda cell (a high-security prison cell, so-called because of its oblong shape). Time and again family members have written to the home minister of Maharashtra to move him to a different cell, but to no avail.