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Braving cold weather and rain on a weekday afternoon, social justice activists came together on Tuesday, December 3, to raise their voices for a physically challenged Delhi University Professor incarcerated in an Indian jail.

Wheelchair-bound G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, is serving a life sentence under inhuman conditions. His health continues to deteriorate because of 19 ailments.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) held a demonstration at Surrey’s Holland Park, where the speakers unanimously demanded the immediate release of Saibaba on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. They felt that the current right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government is indulging in double standards by openly shielding Hindu extremists who spread violence and terror, while punishing a scholar like Saibaba who is facing persecution for standing up for the rights of religious minorities and oppressed communities, particularly Adivasis or the indigenous peoples of India who are being forcibly evicted by the Indian state from their traditional lands in the name of development. The attacks on minorities and Adivasis have grown ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014.

Saibaba was charged and convicted after being branded as a Maoist sympathizer. Since Maoists are fighting a class war in the tribal belt, not only Saibaba, but others like him have been frequently labelled as ultra-leftists to suppress any voice of dissent.

The Sikh activists came out in big numbers to show their solidarity. Among them were members of the Banda Singh Bahadur Society, Ranjit Singh Khalsa and Inderjit Singh Bains, and members of the Guru Nanak Sikh temple Surrey-Delta were also present. Notably, the Sikh community in Vancouver had enthusiastically supported a petition asking for the Canadian government to intervene by calling to get Saibaba released.

Those who spoke on the occasion included anti-racism educator Annie Ohana, anti-poverty activist Dave Diewert, independent Sikh activist Gurmukh Singh Deol, Sikh Nation volunteer Sunil Kumar, besides IAPI members Rakesh Kumar and Gurpreet Singh. No elected official showed up.

The participants held placards asking for freedom of Saibaba and raised slogans against the high handedness of the Indian government, which continues to ignore the international outcry over its mistreatment of Saibaba.

The rally was started with a moment of silence in memory of another scholar and activist, SAR Geelani, who passed away recently. Geelani, who also taught at Delhi University, was close to Saibaba and had been tirelessly campaigning for the release of all political prisoners. He himself was falsely implicated by the police in connection with a terror attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and was thrown into jail. After being acquitted by the court, he began advocacy for political prisoners.


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