India: Disabled Professor Denied Bail and Medical Care

Bombay HC rejects ailing DU professor GN Saibaba’s temporary bail plea

Speed News Desk|23 December 2015

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has rejected the bail plea of Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, who was arrested by the Maharashtra Police for his alleged Maoist links.

The bench has asked the academician, who uses a wheelchair, to surrender in 48 hours, “failing which the police shall arrest him.

“The court said that his fundamental rights would be violated if it didn’t grant him bail. The court also took note of the fact that Saibaba is suffering from multiple health problems and needs to be moved around in a wheel-chair. He had dislocated his shoulder and has a crippled right hand due to spinal problems.

He was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. On 1 July, he was granted temporary bail on grounds of failing health. Saibaba had been in jail since his arrest in May 2014 from the Delhi University campus.

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Statement by Committee for the Defense and Release of Dr GN Saibaba

Statement of condemnation of the order to send Dr. G.N. Saibaba back to prison

Court cancels wheelchair-bound professor's bail, charges Arundhati Roy with contempt for defending himWe the undersigned are shocked to hear the news that Dr. G.N Saibaba’s application for permanent bail was rejected today by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. What is further appalling is that the High Court has also dismissed Saibaba’s interim bail order (Criminal Application No.785/2015), that was issued by a division bench led by the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Justice Mohit Shah along with Justice Shukre on 30/06/2015 which granted him interim relief which in turn was extended by the same division bench till 31st December 2015, to avail treatments for his serious medical conditions. It was only after many democratic voices raised an alarm about the rapidly failing health condition of Saibaba, that the Bombay High Court intervened on the basis of a letter written to the Chief Justice by an activist named Purnima Upadhyay. The letter, which was suo moto converted to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by the High Court, resulted in Dr. Saibaba being granted temporary bail. Interrupting his ongoing treatment, the new judgment by a single judge of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered Dr. Saibaba to surrender himself to the Nagpur prison within 48 hours! The order further states upon failure to do so, he shall be arrested by the police. Continue reading

India: “Justice” System Produces Political Prisoners

Vira Sathidar, right, in a scene from “Court,” directed by Chaitanya Tamhane. Credit Zeitgeist Films

 The wheels of justice grind slowly and mercilessly in “Court,” Chaitanya Tamhane’s quiet, devastating critique of the antiquated Indian legal system. As it follows the case of Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), a 65-year-old folk singer and social activist accused of inciting what is presumed to be the suicide of a sewer worker in Mumbai, the film conjures an absurdist nightmare of bureaucratic incompetence, indifference and social inequity.

Narayan is first seen teaching children Indian geography in a crowded Mumbai classroom, then hurrying to board a bus that takes him to an outdoor theater where he is introduced to a small crowd as “the people’s poet.” Backed by a troupe of musicians, he sings a forceful song urging everyone to rise up against “religious, racist, casteist and nationalist jungles.” Midway through, Narayan is arrested.

The remainder of the movie observes his protracted trial. A travesty of justice that another filmmaker might have directed as a farce, the work has a gravity, a measured pace and a detachment reminiscent of a Frederick Wiseman documentary — “Court,” however, is fictional. Continue reading

The Notorious Treatment of India’s Political Prisoner Dr. GN Saibaba

[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

“Independent India” Uses British Empire’s “Sedition” Laws to Suppress Dissent

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
Ushinor Majumdar, Outlook India Magazine, week of May 18, 2015
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

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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.

UK: Human Rights Activists and Lawyers Protest Political Arrest of GN Saibaba in India

[The following letter from British human rights activists and lawyers is an important internationalist act in solidarity with political prisoners in India, and particularly Professor GN Saibaba.  And it is doubly important for coming from the UK, where the repressive system of colonial laws in India was created, and continues under the purportedly “independent” and “democratic” regime in India today.  In 2012, the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in India wrote, “…the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (1967) …. was copied from the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance brought by the British in 1942. Today the same law has been revamped with more teeth and implemented. Since the 1950s till date every draconian law that received the gravest wrath of the masses of the people was then rehashed into another law with yet stringent clauses. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the present UAPA is in a way a clever rehashing of the old MISA, NSA, TADA, POTA etc. rolled into one made more stringent with the worst kind of clauses to stifle all forms of dissent.” — Frontlines ed.]

June 20, 2014
Letter to the Chief Justice : Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)
http://www.campacc.org.uk

Your Honour,
We the undersigned would like to express our concern over the manner in which the government is increasingly resorting to the indiscriminate use of custody. In particular, the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 2008 (UAPA) is being abused indiscriminately to harass, intimidate and dissenting voices. This is part of the escalating effort to impede free speech and even thought, contrary to the Constitution of India as well as International principles of Human Rights. Such actions become pernicious in the context of the wide-ranging powers and impunity that have been available to the police and paramilitary forces under this Act. This is illustrated by the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reportedly issued instructions that persons and organizations who raise issues of human rights violations in Maoist areas must be targeted and arrested.
The recent abduction of Dr. G. N. Saibaba was particularly shocking. Dr. G N Saibaba, Asst. Professor with the Department of English, Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University, was arrested by the Maharashtra Police on 9 May 2014 for his alleged links with Naxal leaders. He has been an active member of the Delhi University community, a very popular and respected teacher, and an important voice on democratic norms within and outside the university. He has been a vocal and important critic of the Indian state’s policies with regard to its paramilitary action in Central and Eastern tribal areas, commonly known as Operation Green Hunt. Along with other intellectuals, he has drawn attention to the blatant human rights violations of the Adivasi peoples of these regions. In particular, he has pointed out the enormous financial stakes in claiming the region for private industrial and commercial development at several national and international forums. Along with other intellectuals, he has criticized such models of “development” and their usefulness for the local populace in any participatory democracy. His sustained critique has earned him the ire of the powers that be. For some time now, they have been looking for a way to silence this very significant voice.
Dr. Saibaba is wheelchair bound, suffers from 90% disability and post-polio residual paralysis of both lower limbs. He poses no flight risk whatsoever. He is also a heart patient with blood pressure issues. Furthermore, he suffers from chronic and intense back pain as a result of the disability and being wheelchair bound. He has always cooperated fully with the investigation and did not need to be arrested. The National Human Rights Commission has already issued notice to the Maharashtra and Delhi police forces for violation of Dr. Saibaba’s rights in the course of the earlier investigation. Continue reading

Indian court suspends life term of Maoist rebel

Narayan Sanyal

NEW DELHI, May 7 (UPI Asia) – India’s Supreme Court Monday freed a septuagenarian Maoist rebel on bail and suspended the life imprisonment sentence given him in 2010 after being convicted for sedition.

Supreme Court Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya said they were giving him bail because he was 78 years old and had already been in jail six years.In 2010, a court in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh had convicted Sanyal, a leader of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), with two others.

The case shot to international attention in 2008 when noted human rights activist Binayak Sen was implicated in the case for visiting Sanyal in prison.

Police had alleged that Sen, a doctor, had delivered messages to Sanyal on the pretext of visiting him in prison to treat him as a doctor.

The Chhattisgarh judge had given him five years in jail under India’s controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Continue reading

India Political Prisoners’ hunger strike against fascist law and armed units in Jungle Mahal

Jailed rebels on fast

OUR CORRESPONDENT, Telegraph of India

Krishnagar, Aug. 28: A group of suspected Maoists lodged in a Krishnagar jail are on hunger strike since August 24 demanding repeal of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, release of political prisoners, withdrawal of central forces from Jungle Mahal and quick disposal of cases.

Among the 15 Maoists on hunger strike are Chandi Sarkar and Pradip Chatterjee, both state committee members of the CPI (Maoist). The duo figure on the list of 52 political prisoners selected for release following a recommendation by a government-appointed committee. Seventy other convicts and undertrials have joined the fast to express solidarity.

District magistrate Abhinav Chandra said the health of those fasting was being monitored.

An Association for Protection of Democratic Rights team yesterday met the fasting prisoners. “We requested them to call off the hunger strike but they refused. They had fasted on June 23 over these demands but the government did not pay heed. So, they are annoyed,” APDR vice-president Tapas Chakraborty said.

Biswarup Biswas, the jail superintendent, said attempts were on to persuade the prisoners to withdraw their hunger strike. “But they have refused so far.”

Sarkar’s daughter Ranu today said she was concerned about the health of her father and other prisoners. “The state government should at least make a statement,” she said.

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