In the one year since her husband has been incarcerated, A S Vasantha has got to visit him only five times. They have been communicating mostly with letters. In one, he wrote, “I feel like boiled flesh being cooked in a pressure cooker.”
Vasantha’s husband, Delhi University English professor G N Saibaba, was arrested on May 9 last year for alleged Maoist links. He has been kept in solitary confinement in an anda cell at Nagpur central prison. “At the time of his arrest, Sai was 90 per cent disabled due to post-polio paralysis. Now, his condition has deteriorated to such an extent that only his right hand is working. I am not sure if he will come out of prison alive,” she said.
Saibaba, who was suffering from high pressure and a heart ailment until last year, has developed stones in both kidneys and the gall bladder. “Sai’s left hand is barely functioning and his backbone has been dislocated. These ailments have crippled his body. Because of the heat and lack of medicine, he has fainted several times and his nose and ears often bleed,” his wife said.
Taking cognisance of his health, Bombay High Court last week pulled up the prison authorities for “working blindly” and treating Saibaba “like an animal”. The court directed them to allow Saibaba’s brother and wife to accompany him to a hospital of his choice.
In jail, Saibaba has allegedly been struggling to get access to basic facilities. “For 72 hours since he was arrested, they did not provide him access to a toilet or relieve himself elsewhere. His wheelchair broke and he could not operate it himself,” Vasantha said. “Until recently, we were not allowed to provide him things like books and fruits. We have fought several battles to get small things done — meeting him for more than a couple of minutes, providing him a wheelchair. They treated him like a piece of luggage, lugging him around from prison to court. When the wheelchair could not enter the cell, they would pick him up and throw him inside.”
In April, when Vasantha reached the intensive care unit of a hospital in Nagpur to see her husband, she said she found a policeman with an AK-47 pointed towards her husband. He was sitting on one side of his bed while a drip stand stood on the other side.
“He is an accused, not a criminal. At that point, he could not even have moved on the bed without help. Is this how you treat a person who has spent his entire life working for human rights, raising a voice for indigenous people?” she said.