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Five years on, no relief for jailed Delhi University professor Saibaba

Arrested on May 9, 2014, on charges of having Maoist links, Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba, who is 90% physically handicapped, has remained incarcerated in Nagpur Central Jail’s ‘anda cell’ (solitary confinement) since his conviction on March 7, 2017.

On April 30, a panel of experts with the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) wrote to the Indian government urging authorities to immediately release Saibaba, citing his “seriously deteriorating” health condition.

“Dr. Saibaba’s health problems require immediate and sustained medical attention and are reaching a point of being life-threatening,” the five Special Rapporteurs Catalina Devandas, Michel Forst, Dainius Pūras, Nils Melzer and Agnès Callamard wrote.

Saibaba has been wheelchair-bound since he was five because of polio and suffers from 19 medical ailments. “He has a cyst in his brain due to which he keeps getting unconscious and has maladies in his gall bladder and pancreas,” his wife Vasantha Kumari, said over telephone from Delhi. “He also has issues in his kidney and spine because of which he needs comprehensive treatment.”

Ms. Kumari said jail authorities kept assuring her that they would help her disabled husband inside the prison but had provided little assistance. “There is no one from the jail authorities and the neighbouring adivasi co-convicts help him to eat and go to the washroom.”

HC rejects bail plea

On March 25, Saibaba’s medical bail plea was rejected by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. The court had observed that the “offences are serious in nature” as reason for not granting suspension of sentence.

Explaining that his detention in the anda cell left her husband exposed to extremes of temperature that was worsening his health condition, Ms. Kumari wryly observed, “prisons were meant for reformation but now they are meant for torture. The conditions of prisons matter only when we want to bring back Vijay Mallya but are not even taken into consideration when there is a disabled convict.”

She said if he could not be granted bail he should at least be shifted to another jail.

“We have written to the authorities to shift him to Cherlapally central prison in Hyderabad because that’s where his brother is, who can go visit him regularly and my mother-in-law will also be at peace,” Ms. Kumari said. “The Nagpur jail has no emergency room and none of us are around if something happens,” she added, her voice trailing off.

“Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in a bomb blast that killed six people can be granted medical bail and be allowed to contest elections, but Saibaba should not be allowed to even be transferred to another jail,” Ms. Kumari said.

Saibaba’s daughter Manjeera

said: “UAPA [Unlawful Activities Prevention Act] has been misused and my father has become a case study.”

She added, “I think its a huge game. They are able to prove that even without evidence we can convict a person. His case is serving as a huge cornerstone.”

Ms. Kumari said, “I know why Saibaba is suffering, because he stood for the rights of dalits and adivasis and other minorities. There is no democracy left. He is in prison for his ideology.”

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 2:21:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/five-years-on-no-relief-for-jailed-delhi-university-professor-saibaba/article27084472.ece

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