Five days after Delhi University professor G N Saibaba was picked up by police for alleged Maoist links, a small group comprising his family members, academicians, a former judge, filmmakers and artists came together on Wednesday, raising concern over the way he was being treated by prison authorities and demanding his “immediate and unconditional” release.
An English teacher at DU’s Ram Lal Anand College who suffers from 90 per cent disability, Saibaba was picked up by Maharashtra Police on May 9 from the university’s North Campus.
Narrating the experience of Saibaba’s brother Ramdev, who met him two days ago in Nagpur jail, where Saibaba is lodged, teachers read out Ramdev’s letter to the prison authorities.
Stating that Saibaba was confined to a solitary cell in the jail, Ramdev’s letter said he had not been provided with a helper. “As he can’t walk and do his daily activities by himself due to his physical disability, two assistants should be provided,” the letter reads.
Appealing for her husband’s release, Saibaba’s wife Vasantha said, “Some prison officials told his brother that they did not know that a person with disability was being brought there. My husband cannot stand on his own. He can lift his hands only partially… He also suffers from high blood pressure and severe pain in the lower spinal region.”
“My husband told his brother that he will sit on a hunger strike in the jail if the situation does not improve,” she said.
Karen Gabriel, who teaches English at St Stephen’s College, said, “The jail superintendent refused to accept the medicines Ramdev had brought for Saibaba. Ramdev fears that denial of medication may prove fatal for his brother. Denial of medication leading to constant pain and deterioration of health or denial of basic amenities are acknowledged forms of custodial torture. It is important to emphasise that in the case of Saibaba, to deny him basic facilities needed for a 90 per cent disabled person and to leave him unattended itself is severely detrimental to his well-being and possibly fatal.”
Questioning the manner of Saibaba’s arrest, Justice Rajinder Sachar said, “It seems that no procedures were followed. It is a shame that police arrested him from the university. It is an attack on the university. On behalf of PUCL, I demand his immediate release.”
Documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak said, “It is extremely shameful that the university has completely abdicated its role, not saying a word on the issue. We are here not because we are beaten and defeated, but because we are outraged.”
“Universities are the last bastions of democracy. It is important to understand why universities are increasingly becoming targets of attacks, not just in Saibaba’s case,” Sumit Chakravartty, editor, Mainstream, said.