[Upon publication of this article about his experience in an ‘anda’ (an egg-shaped jail cell), the court denied his temporary bail, ordered his return to jail and withdrew his access to decent medical care. — Frontlines ed.]
by G.N. Saibaba, Frontline, December 23, 2015
My view from an ‘anda’
G.N. Saibaba, a wheelchair-bound Delhi University professor, talks of the days he spent in Nagpur Central Jail, in solitary confinement, after his arrest for alleged Maoist links.
G.N. Saibaba is a professor of English at Delhi University and is wheelchair-bound owing to physical disabilities to the extent of 90 per cent. On May 9, 2014, he was “abducted” when he was on his way home from work, and the next day, he was taken to Aheri, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. From there, he was taken to Nagpur Central Jail where he was lodged until June this year when he was granted interim bail for medical treatment. He was charged under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for alleged Maoist links, and the trial, which began on October 27, 2015, at the Gadchiroli Sessions Court resulted in bail being granted for all co-accused except him. The hearing on his plea for permanent bail was held on December 11, and a final order was awaited at the time of going to press.
The 14 months spent in jail were like 14 years in hell. Thanks to a huge campaign outside and an order by a division bench of the Bombay High Court, I am out for medical treatment; otherwise, I would be dead by now. The prison hospital in Nagpur Central Jail lacks permanent doctors or medicines and is ill-equipped to treat severe ailments. While I was there, five people (one in his 50s, one in his 40s and three in their 30s) died; they could have survived with timely treatment. Apart from the chronic and severe health problems that I already had, I acquired spinal problems while being incarcerated. Owing to the heavy force used by the police in dragging me by my hands, the nerves from my neck to my left shoulder got severely stretched and rendered my left hand immobile. I suffered excruciating pain for 14 months. Instead of treating the ruptured nerve system, I was given painkillers, that too occasionally in the beginning and arbitrarily afterwards, which resulted in damage to my left hand. Despite rigorous treatment in various hospitals every six months, even now I can’t move my left hand above waist height. Besides, I cannot use the ground-level toilet, and they built a Western-style toilet only after eight months. That, too, did not work. Water came for 20 minutes in the morning, but with only one bucket allowed per prisoner not much could be stored. Without water, the closed anda (egg-shaped) cell where I was confined would stink ad infinitum. Continue reading