If the insensitivity being shown by the Indian state towards a physically challenged former Delhi University Professor is any indication, the government of the world’s so called largest democracy lacks compassion.

Wheelchair bound G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, is incarcerated after being convicted for life after being branded as Maoist sympathizer.

He is among several known scholars and human rights defenders detained for merely standing up for the poor and marginalized, especially Adivasis (Indigenous peoples), who continue to face displacement from their traditional territories by the extraction industry looking for access to mineral-rich lands with the backing of the state.

Maoist insurgents, fighting a class war, have been active in tribal areas, where Adivasis often take up arms due to the high-handedness of the police and security forces. Many Adivasis see them as protectors in their fight for survival from barbarity of the state.

Saibaba’s only crime was raising his voice for the indigenous peoples of India and religious minorities.

Although a UN committee has urged for his immediate release on compassionate grounds, the Indian authorities continue to oppose any attempt to bail him out.

On Saturday, he lost his ailing mother, despite attempts by his lawyer to get him released on bail due to his deteriorating health and the growing threat of COVID 19 in overcrowded Indian jails.

74-year-old Gokarakonda Suryavathi was suffering with cancer, but Saibaba’s lawyer failed to get him allowed see her through video-conferencing. He had informed the jail authorities about her condition and her wish to see her son one last time, but they did not even reply.

All this is in sharp contrast to what Indian Prime Minister had stated at the beginning of the campaign against COVID 19.

Narendra Modi had called for battling Corona (COVID 19) with Karuna (compassion), but seeing what Saibaba and his family are being forced to go through, his actions certainly do not match his words. If Saibaba’s condition does not evoke Karuna then what does?

Gurpreet Singh is a journalist


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