Not a Sham Issue

Saibaba Concerns Us All!

Jan Myrdal

On the net it is possible to read in various languages how Professor GN Saibaba of Delhi University has been detained since May 9, 2014. I cannot find anything about this printed in a single official or semi-official Swedish newspaper. But the question is of great concern to Aftonbladet's readers.

Professor GN Saibaba teaches literature at Ram Lal Anand College. He also invited me to lecture on Strindberg. Some of the students were Swedish. The last time I saw him was here in Varberg two years ago when Sven Lindqvist was awarded his prize. The reason Saibaba was imprisoned is that he is a leading Indian civil rights activist who actively made public and opposed the kinds of legal, police and military assaults that are now being made against indigenous people in the bloody "Operation Green Hunt."

Four times since September 2013, the police in Delhi conducted house searches and interrogations without finding legal grounds to arrest him. On May 9, however, police came from Maharashtra to Delhi without prior warning. They seized him, without giving him the opportunity to contact a lawyer, and took him away to Maharashtra. The law under which he is held there is the "Unlawful Activities Prevention Act" ("UAPA"), strongly criticized by all Indian jurists. GN Saibaba is charged with secretly being a member of the "Communist Party of India (Maoist)," which is banned in India, and having contact with its general secretary Ganapathy. On June 13, 2014, the Court refused him bail.

"The Sunday Standard" of May 20, 2014, reported under the headline: "Red Terror's Scary Urban Footprints " on the declassified secret service dossier, "Maoist plan for urban areas," which is the basis for the arrest of Professor Saibaba. It described him as follows: "Saibaba recruited such academics as teachers and doctors to become members of above-ground organizations. They participated in meetings and donated money to the Maoists' coffers. /.../ Some meetings connected with left-wing extremism were also held at his residence in 2010. He organized a meeting with Jan Myrdal, a Swedish author and Naxalite sympathizer, sometime in February 2010. Myrdal is said to have played a role in the contact between Maoist leaders and above-ground cadres by using his high profile as a writer. /.../ The plan is to gather such strength, so many weapons and so much popular support that a simultaneous uprising in all areas of the red corridor could be converted into a mass revolution that would be self-supporting."

The date and details of what was written about me are wrong—something I can take up in another way—but it is similar to what security minister Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha (upper house of the Indian Parliament, JM) on May 16, 2012: "Jan Myrdal during his stay in India advised CPI (Maoist) to garner support from the middle-class in India by focusing on propaganda against security forces and highlighting human rights issues."

Professor GN Saibaba is now in bad health. He sits in an isolation cell in prison without access to the care he, as cardiac patient, needs. That the authorities in Maharashtra do not want to provide medical care is, given the caste and class-ridden nature of Indian society, quite obvious. Saibaba is one who, according to the traditional ruling class, should not have existed. He is from a poor peasant family in Andhra. He is wheelchair bound and 90% disabled. He was able to acquire the wheelchair only after he began to make a living as a teacher in Delhi. From the age of three, he had to crawl forward. With the help of some rural teachers who recognized his remarkable talent and then grants—and friends—he has been able to struggle through school. This has shaped his character and worldview, particularly after the reading of such great Telegu writers as Sri Sri—and Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, with whom he was personally acquainted.

Professors and students of Delhi as well as human rights activists and union politically engaged people throughout India are now working to build public opinion against the legal assault on Professor GN Saibaba. Yes, all over the world there are petitions and protests. However, I know India. Surely one can argue that experience teaches protests do not mean much, given the power structure in India. On the other hand, India is no fascist dictatorship. It is not a society like Pinochet's Chile. The human rights situation is now far better than it was in British India. What may save GN Saibaba is not just protests, even international ones. I therefore suggest that we start by organizing in Sweden a broad-based group of lawyers who will travel to India and examine on site the situation of GN Saibaba as well as other political prisoners.

I should explain what I mean by broad-based. This is not a sham issue. Certainly there are incompetent and compromising lawyers in Sweden as elsewhere. But more important is that there are lawyers who regardless of their own right-left color (ideology) actually take seemingly formal issues seriously. Let them gather a group and go to India.

Vol. 47, No. 3, Jul 27 - Aug 2, 2014