12 Months Later
Behind the Bars
Twelve months have passed
after Dr G N Saibaba was abducted from the Delhi University North Campus premises on May 09, 2014 by the Maharashtra police. Dr Saibaba was produced in the remote far flung Aheri police station in the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border to be charged under several sections of the worst draconian legislation—the UAPA. Dr GN Saibaba, joint secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) and a tireless campaigner against the policies of loot and plunder of the successive governments in India, euphemistically called Operation Green Hunt (OGH) had become the target of ire of the state with mounting criticism from the opinionated sections of the progressive, liberal middle-class as well as the rising protests of the vast sections of the people against the so-called development policies of the government resulting in the loss of livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of dalits and adivasis—the poorest of the poor in the subcontinent.
In the last 12 months of his incarceration, Dr Saibaba has repeatedly brought before the court as well as the jail authorities the pressing need for his grant of bail, not on any humanitarian grounds, but on the merit of law as sanctioned by the provisions that are there for the differently–abled. He has pointed out to the judge in many of the video conferences—as he was produced in the court only once and the rest of the dates of hearing / production have been met through the video conference facility, which is also a grievous infringement of his fundamental right—that the facilities in the Nagpur Central Jail are little or none to meet even the survival requirements of a 90 percent disabled and wheel chair bound person like him. But as one can see, the court preferred to stand by the prosecution, in an atmosphere vitiated by the media which profiled the wheel chair bound activist academic as a dreaded and dangerous demagogue having links with a proscribed organization, the CPI (Maoist}. In the due course of his fight for justice through his lawyers, Dr Saibaba's plea for bail was twice rejected by the Sessions Court of Gadchiroli and once by the Nagpur bench of the Maharashtra High Court. But the facts can't be belied. Saibaba's concern about his fragile health grew larger as he was diagnosed with a bend spinal cord resulting in rib crowding and the lungs getting affected. Being a heart patient the troubles with his heart further compounded and the latest medical report requires him to undergo an angiography the post-recovery of which can be fatal in the prison stay. Further tests showed stones in the gall bladder.
It was on the direction of the Sessions' Judge that the second bail application was filed on 12 February 2015 as Saibaba gave a detailed brief of his deteriorating health and the total apathy of the jail authorities as well as the Nagpur police in taking him to the specialist hospitals for his specific health condition. It was only on the eve of the hearing of the bail application that the Nagpur police managed a low floor vehicle to take him to the hospital, that too after a court order directing the SP Gadchiroli. Many of the vital tests were done during those 10-15 days to show the court that adequate care is given to him. But after hearing the arguments and the repeated plea of the prosecution that they are taking adequate care of Dr G N Saibaba including his medical treatment, the judge opted to stand by the prosecution to deny him bail once again. In the arguments of the prosecution they have apprised the judge that Saibaba is being provided with two assistants, health supplements like dry fruits, a table, cot and western commode. Instead of verifying all the facts the judge concluded that since Dr Saibaba is being given adequate medical care as well as facilities in the jail he need not be given bail. No sooner than the bail was rejected did the jail officials started their usual whimsical attitude towards Dr G N Saibaba many a time denying all those facilities let alone some of the life saving medicines that they had promised before the court. In his message through his wife, AS Vasantha he referred to the vindictive observations of the officials higher up that they would want to teach him a lesson so that it remains as a warning for other intellectuals like him. Life after the rejection of the bail on 4 March 2015 for Dr G N Saibaba had become worse as he was at the receiving end of a sadistic and vindictive prison administration working on specific orders to pull all stops to further humiliate and discriminate him. The fallout is a steady deterioration in his health and the urgent need for specialist treatment for the complications that have compounded in the last 12 months of incarceration in the solitary cell (anda) in Nagpur central jail.
In such circumstances Dr Saibaba resorted to hunger strike from Saturday (April 11, 2015) onwards. His wife and the lawyers fearing for his health requested him to refrain from such an extreme step as he was already in a fragile condition. Bur Saibaba went on with his hunger strike against the mounting apathy of the jail officials who claimed that they had no option but to further tighten restrictions on the inmates as there was an alleged jail break in the Nagpur central jail. This was used as a pretext to snatch away the little provisions that Saibaba was given. On 11 April when his wife AS Vasantha, reached the jail premises, she was asked to do the meeting through the mesh. That too after a long wait just before the time was about to get over. She had carried medicines and other supplements which were not allowed. Given his health condition and being wheel chair bound, to stretch oneself to talk through the mesh in itself is difficult for Dr G N Sarbaba. But then the jail authorities were not ready to budge. All this has proved beyond doubt that there are no specific orders regarding the facilities and 'good' treatment being given to Saibaba as claimed by the jail authorities before the court. All such utterances that they made were ad hoc arrangements which can change at any moment.
On 17 April 2015, Dr Saibaba was taken to the Government Medical College Nagpur as he had fallen unconscious. Dr Ramdev, brother of Saibaba and Dr Hany Babu from Delhi University who in the defence committee were allowed to meet him in the hospital for a few minutes. The team comprising Vara Vara Rao, revolutionary poet and RDF president, Dr Hany Babu, Adv Mahadevan, Adv Dasharath, Dr Ramdev and other lawyers and civil liberties activists from Nagpur held a press conference highlighting the grievous condition of health of Dr G N Saibaba and the vindictive attitude of the police and the prison officials to break him physically and mentally by disallowing even the basic fundamental rights of a 90 percent disabled.
The lawful lawlessness of the UAPA cannot be taken refuge to in denying the fundamental rights of a differently-abled.
Vol. 47, No. 44, May 10 - 16, 2015