[Two former political prisoners, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, who also were jailed under India’s notorious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which has incarcerated countless as accused “Naxalites”, describe the details of the notorious and abusive treatment of Professor GN Saibaba, who suffers from polio and multiple medical issues and deteriorating health due to the conditions of his imprisonment. — Frontlines ed.]
How Maharashtra robbed Dr Saibaba of his rights
Until police can be compelled to respect basic human rights, we will continue to remain far removed from the democracy we claim to be.
Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves
“I hope you are doing well, despite the fact that you are all in a larger penitentiary, as Uncle Sam would call it. I have been in a smaller enclosure here for the last ten months. My wish to join you back in the larger prison-house has been thwarted once again. I am sure you all understand the anxieties of your friend’s existence in the claustrophobic sealed concrete enclosure of an ‘anda cell’ behind seven heavy and gigantic gates.” Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba’s words (written over three months ago from the confines of the Nagpur Central Prison) carry that gritty tone characteristic of the man ‘guilty’ of supporting and participating in sundry issues and causes of the poor and dispossessed in various parts of the country over the last three decades.
Dr Saibaba, a Delhi University Professor in English, with 90 per cent permanent physical impairment of his lower limbs, was abducted on May 9, 2014 from a Delhi road by the Maharashtra police and has since been behind bars. His story is a telling commentary on the biases of a criminal justice system that readily releases convicted film-stars and politicians but insists on incarcerating those accused of committing the ‘crime’ of supporting or believing in thought contrary to the ruling ideology. Despite many Supreme Court rulings and the recent Kerala High Court assertion that ‘being a Maoist is no crime’, the reality is that it is just this accusation that keeps Saibaba and hundreds of others like him in prison for years on end.
In the last thirteen months, Saibaba has had his bail rejected four times – thrice in the Sessions Court and once in the High Court. Despite his severe disability and his rapidly deteriorating medical condition, the State has not only vigorously opposed bail, but also gone out of its way to deny him proper medical care. Whenever Saibaba has applied for bail on medical and disability grounds, the prosecution has adopted the tactic of ensuring that facilities were provided in the jail when the bail application came up for hearing, but after the bail application was disposed of, those facilities are withdrawn. Continue reading →
Kobad Ghandy, the 68-year-old undertrial lodged in Tihar Jail here, called off his hunger strike on Friday soon after a court ordered the jail authorities to provide him easier access to basic facilities and adequate health care.
Due to polio, his legs are 90% disabled since he was five. But the authorities find him so dangerous that he has been denied bail by a Nagpur court twice. For over a year, jail authorities have denied him the special care he needs as a disabled prisoner with cardiac problems. As a result, his health is now failing. The jail doctor has ordered an angioplasty. Without the surgery he might suffer a heart attack.
Poetry is an open secret That destroys the disquiet Stirring in my heart. It reaches in a trice Those it is meant to reach. Suddenly the ones who need to, Will understand. Rising in my thoughts, It inspires movements. The secret is, My poetry was born From the pangs of struggle. Cover it if you must – You will see it escape through The spaces of your fingers, Its vibrant, anguished notes Snapping in anger, Setting tears on fire And flowing forth – A river of blood-red syllables.
Varavara Rao is a communist, activist, naxalite sympathiser,renowned poet, journalist, literary critic, and public speaker from Telangana, India. He has been writing poetry for the last four decades.
[The Indian state, thoroughly repressive toward over 90% of the people in India, has often claimed, since being “granted” independence by the British Empire, that it is democratic, even “the world’s largest democracy.” This claim is belied by the brutal displacement and oppression of the majority of the people–the adivasis, dalits, the peasantry, the women of the oppressed castes and classes, Muslims, political opponents of the neo-colonial, semi-feudal state and their imperialist masters, and the Maoists (and all other opponents loosely, and falsely, labelled “Maoists”). As the opposition continues to grow against the oppressive police state, the contradiction with the democratic myth has grown sharply, infecting even the ranks of the repressive judiary. The rebellious people will carefully study how these “democratic dissidents in high places” will be dealt with by the repressive “powers-that-be”. — Frontlines ed.]
Person can’t be taken into custody just because he is a Maoist, Kerala HC rules
Justice AM Muhammed Mushtaq said that a Maoist can be arrested and put behind the bars only if he or she indulges in unlawful or anti-national activities.
KOCHI: In a significant development, the Kerala high court made it clear that a Maoist cannot be taken into police custody just because of his political leanings. Justice A M Muhammed Mushtaq, in his order on Friday, said that a Maoist can be arrested and put behind bars only if he or she indulges in unlawful or anti-national activities. “Being a Maoist is no crime, though the political ideology of Maoists would not synchronise with our constitutional polity. It is a basic human right to think in terms of human aspirations,” Justice Mushtaq said in his order.The court was hearing a petition filed by Shyam Balakrishnan of Wayanad stating that he was arrested and harassed by the Thunderbolt team — a special police unit – for alleged Maoist links. The court ordered a compensation of Rs one lakh for the petitioner and also asked to state to pay litigation costs of Rs 10, 000. Continue reading →
One year passed since the abduction-arrest of GN Saibaba by Indian state. With a 90 per cent disability Saibaba is lecturer of English at Ramlal Anand College, Delhi University and he is being deprived of proper medication and care that is needed for his safety and life. In the year he’s been in prison, his physical condition has deteriorated alarmingly. He is in constant, excruciating pain.
But he is denied of bail like many other in India and his ‘crime’ is to speak for the oppressed masses, Adivaisi, Dalits and Muslims.
To know more about him and his case (and many others), read Arundhati Roy’s article at:
The theatrical trailer of COURT, a winner of 17 International awards An Indian reviewer said the film is a “remarkably assured, engrossing study of the power of the law and order machinery to crush protest through delays, deferred hearings and demands for further evidence.” Forbes magazine in India said Chaitanya Tamhane, the director, is “Indian cinema’s new voice of subversion.”
Synopsis:A sewerage worker’s dead body is found inside a manhole in Mumbai. An ageing folk singer is tried in court on charges of abetment of suicide. He is accused of performing an inflammatory song which might have incited the worker to commit the act. As the trial unfolds, the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge involved in the case are observed outside the court.
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A Law Less Majestic
Sanctioned by an archaic law and other draconian legislation, “sedition against the state” is a handy tool to fell voices of dissent
SEDITION — Section 124A, Indian Penal Code, 1860: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.” Punishment: Fine, or imprisonment of three years to life. Shall be punished with 104 (imprisonment for life), to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. Exception: Criticism, to be determined by the judiciary
UAPA —Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967:Following a constitutional amendment, UAPA was enacted to “impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, on the (i) freedom of speech and expression (ii) right to assemble peaceably and without arms and (iii) right to form associations or unions”
Punishment: Penalties ranging from five years to life imprisonment along with fines. If the offence leads to loss of life, a death sentence can be awarded. Unlawful associations: Secessionist and terrorist associations; to be determined and notified by ministry of home affairs
Behind every man who has been labelled ‘seditious’ by the State is a law that goes back 155 years. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code dates to 1860, three years after the British were rattled by what came to be known as the Sepoy Mutiny. There is also the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a handy tool to silence ‘dangerous’ people with ‘dangerous’ ideas. Why, a week before it was held unconstitutional, Samajwadi Party leader and UP cabinet minister Azam Khan used Section 66A of the Information Technology Act to penalise a Class 11 student in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.
The police are arbitrary and indiscriminate in the use of the sedition law, arresting people even for activities like singing, acting in street plays, reciting poems, painting graffiti on walls, not standing up during the national anthem or for cheering the Pakistani cricket team. These have, of course, usually accompanied the more serious charges of sympathising, funding or acting with Maoists or suspected terror organisations.