GN Saibaba on hunger strike against CCTV surveillance in Nagpur jail

GN Saibaba's protest yielded little result. The jail authorities provided him with a bottle of water and turned the position of the CCTV camera away from cell.

Human rights activist and UAPA accused Dr GN Saibaba, who has been languishing in Nagpur Central Jail for the last five years has commenced his second hunger strike on May 21. The strike was to protest against the installation of CCTV cameras in his anda cell which surveilled him 24*7.

In a letter to the Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse Patil penned by Saibaba’s wife Vasantha Kumari, nearly two weeks ago, Saibaba was “unable to use the toilet, bathe or change without his privacy being infringed”.

“Saibaba feels humiliated and due to the restrictions by authorities, has decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike if the camera is not removed and the responsible prison administrators apologize for knowingly and brutally violating natural body rights and the rights provided by the constitution,” the letter says.

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This move by the authorities is being deemed as a violation of his fundamental rights to privacy, life, liberty, and bodily integrity.

The result of the strike:

The authorities softened on the fourth day following the professor’s deteriorating health as a consequence of his hunger strike. Aakash Sorde, Saibaba’s advocate said that the scholar has been passing blood in his stool, and that his skin was peeling off from his body.

On May 24, the prison authorities accepted to change the direction of the CCTV camera. They also agreed to provide him with a clean drinking bottle of water.

On the evening of May 25, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Superintendent of the hospital agreed to extend medical treatment, where he will be admitted into the prison hospital.

The Defence committee appeal to the Additional Director General of Prisons (ADG), prison authorities, and home minster of Maharashtra to act immediately and resolve all the demands of Dr GN Saibaba.

However, as seen below, not all of Dr Saibaba’s demands were met in toto.

The following is a list of his demands:

  • Removal of CCTV camera’s focus on his cell
  • Grant of parole which enables him to get required medical treatment for the condition of his health.
  • Immediately shift him out of the anda cell as the temperature there is unregulated and extreme for him. The cell is also disabling his mobility on a wheelchair
  • Transfer him to Cherlapally Central Prison in Hyderabad from Nagpur Central prison
  • Implementation of all other demands of his earlier hunger strike that were not so far not addressed.

Advocate Aakash Sorde, who takes care of Dr Saibaba’s affairs, confirmed that following four days of the scholar’s hunger strike, the prison authorities made a few changes.

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.

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