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Plea to release rights leader Dr Saibaba, in Nagpur solitary cell with serious ailments

Counterview Desk
The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr GN Saibaba has sought Government of India intervention for the immediate release of Dr GN Saibaba, well-known human rights leader, from the overcrowded Nagpur Central Jail in the face of an imminent threat to his life exacerbated by the COVID-19 virus.
Even as pressing upon the release all the incarcerated voices of democracy and uphold their right to life, the committee, in a statement, has said that, suffering from several diseases, including post-polio residual paralysis, Dr Saibaba’s “incarceration” for the last seven years is a clear violation of Supreme Court judgments and international treaties to which India is a signatory.
Signed by prominent led by well-known writer Arundhati Roy, regrets the statement, “Despite interventions made by the National Human Rights Commission and authorities of international human rights organisations, the courts have repeatedly denied him bail.”

Text:

Over the last six years, the health of Dr GN Saibaba, incarcerated in Nagpur Central Jail, has deteriorated alarmingly. Prof Saibaba is a teacher of English at the University of Delhi and is a human rights activist. Due to post-polio residual paralysis of his lower limbs, he is over ninety percent physically disabled and wheelchair bound.
Since incarceration, he has developed severe additional ailments that have resulted in irreparable loss to his health. On May 9, 2014, he was abducted from Delhi by the Maharashtra Police and charged under several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
None of the electronic documents supposedly seized from GN Saibaba’s house were displayed in the court or tested through any witness or made part of the course of evidence. These electronic documents were directly brought only as part of 313 statement, and not the main course of evidence.
The judge rejected all Supreme Court judgments regarding bringing these documents which were not part of the course of evidence as part of 313. These documents used were not a part of the trial. Gadchiroli Sessions court gave life imprisonment on March 7, 2017 to Dr GN Saibaba along with five others.
Excluding a brief reprieve in 2016, he has been kept in the solitary anda cell of Nagpur Central Jail since arrest. With Indian jails filled beyond capacity and lacking in basic medical facilities, and with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country particularly affecting the aged and those with serious pre-existing medical conditions, Dr GN Saibaba’s future looks exceedingly bleak.
Throughout his political life, Dr GN Saibaba has been a vocal advocate for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and other oppressed communities. He has spoken against the state sponsored attack on people in Central India under Operation Green Hunt. He stood by his students and advocated for democratic principles and social justice within the university. He has never shied away from speaking his mind and has worked tirelessly to uphold the spirit of democracy.
Nagpur jail authorities have stated that they lack facilities needed to care for a person with such severe disabilities and ailments
Arundhati Roy
While hospitals in Nagpur and jail authorities have stated that they lack facilities needed to care for a person with such severe disabilities and ailments, he remains incarcerated, untreated and denied bail. Nonetheless, he retains the spirit of struggle, even when dehumanised by the lack of medical facilities and denied the basic fundamental right of a life with dignity.
Dr GN Saibaba suffers severe physical pain caused by the degeneration of muscles in his hands. He is plagued by pancreatitis, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, chronic back pain, immobility and sleeplessness. The weather conditions of Nagpur, magnified by the windowless solitary anda cell have even strained the functioning of his heart.
Consequently, his physical ailments intensified while the lack of pain relief and neglect due to inadequate medical facilities further debilitate his already fragile health. Despite interventions made by the National Human Rights Commission and authorities of international human rights organisations, the courts have repeatedly denied him bail.
The Supreme Court of India has upheld the right to life and reflected on prisoners observing that “the treatment of a human being which offends human dignity, imposes avoidable torture and reduces the man to the level of a beast would certainly be arbitrary and can be questioned under Article 14”.
India is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which recognises the inherent dignity of human beings and the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom. Furthermore, India has ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on October 1, 2007. India has even adopted the United Nations Resolution 70/175 on Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules).
These covenants, conventions and resolutions ensure life and dignity to all persons, prisoners and persons with disabilities and layout the essential parameters necessary for its implementation.
When the National Crime Records Bureau states that prisons across the country prison are filled at 117% with Maharashtra exceeding the average at 149%, the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in such a space is likely to be a death sentence for Dr. Saibaba.
The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr GN Saibaba fears for his life and appeals to the Government of India and the Government of Maharashtra for the immediate release of Dr. GN Saibaba, in light of the impending threat to his life from the COVID-19 virus. The committee urges all democratic organisations and individuals to appeal for the release of all political prisoners.
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*Signatories: Prof G Haragopal, Prof Jagmohan Singh, Prof Manoranjan Mohanty, Prof Amit Bhaduri, Arundhati Roy, Nandita Narain, Karen Gabriel, Sumit Chakravorty, Ashok Bhowmick, Sanjay Kak, PK Vijayan, Vikas Gupta, Biswajit Mohanty, Rakesh Ranjan, Hany Babu, Srikrishna Deva Rao, Seema Azad, AK Ramakrishna, N Raghuram, Anirban Kar,  Subrat Kumar Sahu

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