By Devika Kohli:
On 9th May 2014, Dr. G.N. Saibaba, English Lecturer at Ramlal Anand College, Delhi University, was arrested by the Maharashtra police on account of his alleged association with Maoist groups. His arrest was unusual as he was ‘abducted’ on his way home. It is important to note that Dr. Saibaba is 90% disabled and thus the use of such force was unwarranted, unless the agenda of the police was to bypass any subsequent protests from his friends and supporters.
He has been charged with a host of sections under the anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) and imprisoned in the notorious ‘Anda Cell’ in Nagpur where his health continues to deteriorate steadily. Given his disability, he needs constant care and medical attention. However, he continues to be denied the much needed support. He is fed food that can barely sustain a patient who requires a heavy dose of painkillers. The few medicines and supplements that he was being provided with were withdrawn once his bail was rejected for the third time on 4th March 2015 despite his frail health. In protest, Dr. Saibaba went on a six day hunger strike, fell unconscious and was subsequently hospitalized. Why is he being subjected to such inhumane treatment? It is suggested that it was his campaigning against the state sponsored Operation Green Hunt that made him a ‘marked’ man.
What Is Operation Green Hunt?
Operation Green Hunt was a covert operation launched by Mr. P. Chidambram in September 2009, against Maoists residing in the Red Corridor, “a huge swathe of eastern India comprising up to 40 per cent of the country”, including states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh West Bengal, which are hotbeds of Maoist insurgency. Dr. Saibaba has been a strong critic of this operation which has led to the infliction of innumerable atrocities such as rape, plunder, murder, incineration of homes, etc. of the Adivasis by the “state-sponsored vigilante militias“ (the Salwa Judum in Bastar and unnamed militia in other states). The operation is viewed by activists such as Arundhati Roy as an attempt to acquire the land of the Adivasis so that it can be freely used for mining and construction projects.
In an email conversation, Dr. Brinda Bose, Associate Professor of English Literature at Jawaharlal Nehru University, expressed her opinion on some important questions:
Why is the government so threatened by a man who is 90% disabled?
“That is what both intrigues and appalls us, isn’t it? Either they are so threatened by any kind of dissent that they want to make an example of such a citizen especially, or they are so dehumanized that it makes no difference. After all they are risking breaking the law, flouting the disability act, so it must be important enough. Perhaps as Arundhati Roy said at the hunger strike, the state wants to accomplish a mean feat – the death of a prisoner they want to eliminate without touching him, just by neglecting him and letting his physical condition deteriorate to such an extent that he perishes.”
On May 9, 2015 it has been one year since he was ‘abducted’ by the Maharashtra police, what does that say about our nation?
“It says that there is neither any justice nor any sense of respecting common humanitarian grounds in the country, and it shows how terrified the state is of any critique or questioning. It shows we are no longer a democracy. We already know this by the superstar acquittals every day now. Dr. Saibaba’s case is additionally distressing because it’s a triple whammy – freedom of speech violation, fair trial violation, human rights for disabled person’s violation.”
Dr. Bose further adds that “The percentage of university people who showed up at the (Delhi University) hunger strike was ridiculous. With such shocking callousness about realities all around us, what is the point of talking loftily about romance and revolution inside the classroom?”
The case of Dr. Saibaba almost seems like a tale from Manisha Sethi’s ‘Kafkaland’ where the author highlights the impunity of the state, the subversion of procedural norms and the disquieting practices followed by courts in the name of justice.