Over 30 rights organisations assembled under the banner ‘Campaign against State Repression’ (CASR) in Harkishan Singh Surjeet Bhawan in Delhi on Monday, December 5, to demand unconditional acquittal for professor G.N. Saibaba and others, who have been languishing within prison walls for years for their alleged links with the outlawed Maoists. .
Navneet gave the introductory note to the event tracing the genesis of the CASR in 2018, moderating the first session, and dwelling on the timeline of Saibaba and others.
The acquittal of Saibaba and four others in the Maoists-links case by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court was withdrawn by the Supreme Court within 24 hours, on October 15. A division bench of justices M.R. Shah and Bela M Trivedi at the apex court, which heard a special plea by the Union government against the acquittal orders, reversed d the earlier verdict, delivered on October 14.
Adressing the joint press conference organised by rights bodies on Monday, December 5, Saibaba’s partner, Vasantha Kumari, reflected an account of what she underwent what she on October 14-15, and how their celebrations after the acquittal was short-lived. With deep conviction she expressed that it was her husband’s death defying courage in confronting illegal land grabbing by corporates that earned him the wrath of the state. She asserted that Pandu Narote was a victim of criminal negligence. In her opinion rapists and criminal elements were given licence to function .Vasantha expressed admiration of how Sai after acquittal distributed goods to fellow prisoners.
“As we found out about the acquittal, we were all very happy. I got calls from around the world that finally Sai and others with Sai will be out. The advocates told us to come down to Nagpur because Sai would be free. He had distributed all his belongings to the jail except his books and legal papers. We were all waiting. At this point, a special bench sat especially to ensure a stay on his release. Everyone is equal before the law then why Sai, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi and other tribals are being denied bail and parole? Without any crime and without any evidence, they have been given life imprisonment.”
Vasantha said that it must strike the authorities involved to release Saibaba immediately since his health is rapidly deteriorating. “I met Sai after the stay on his acquittal. He is suffering, from spasms and cramps and breathlessness. He has been put in the Anda cell. The cell is not covered from the top, as it is a torture cell from the time of British rule in India. The British put those who fought for freedom in that cell. Sai is battling life and death. He wrote a letter two days ago saying that he is having a lot of problems. However, no doctor is speaking openly. He is in unbearable pain. Despite his medical condition, his bail plea has been rejected. This is extremely unfortunate when rapists and murderers are out freely.”
Alongside Saibaba in the case, the police also arrested Jawaharlal Nehru University student Hem Mishra, two tribal youths Vijay Tirki and Pandu Narote, journalist Prashant Rahi and Mahesh Tirki in the case.The Campaign demanded the unconditional release of
Narote (33), convicted under UAPA charges alongside Saibaba, succumbed in police custody in August this year. Narote’s lawyers alleged that the prison authorities deliberately did not provide medical care in time. He was moved to the hospital only after his condition deteriorated badly, they said.
Speaking at the event, K.D. Mishra, Hem Mishra’s father said, “When they wanted to stay the acquittal solicitor general Tushar Mehta was sent in to stop the acquittal despite an off on Saturday. This was done to target someone’s fundamental right to freedom, to stop them this bench was created. This happens in the rarest of the rare cases.”
The organisers of the event alleged a violent attack by the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student unit, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Communist Party of India general secretary D. Raja stated is ruthless and insensitive on the part of the government to keep them in prison and the name of Maoism or pretext of Urban Maoists pro-people voices are mercilessly crushed. He asserted that left wing extremism fought on behalf of oppressed people while right wing extremism created mortal wounds on the masses.
Prashant Bhushan most boldly related how the denial of right to bail was infringing basic human right and how a law like UAPA endorsed denying bail and treated trial like punishment. He condemned the foul play of the Supreme Court bench.. He asserted that investigative agencies should be penalised for framing cases.
Delhi University professor Saroj Giri summarised that reversing of Saibaba’s acquittal was manifestation of the oppressive nature of the judicial system itself. He was convinced that any other judges would have also reverted the release order.
Suchata De of CPI (ML) Liberation explained how foreign capital was looting the country’s resources and how after independence corporate loot replaced colonial exploitation. She linked Saibaba’s case with Bhima Koregaon and Delhi riots and demanded unconditional release of all political prisoners. She felt it is unimaginable how many people would be arrested on trumped up charges if the challenged oppression.
Delhi University professor PK Vijayan spoke about the link of the draining of the country’s natural resources by the corporates and established the link of such economic loot with the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case. Cases like Saibaba were symptoms of the sickness of the merciless socio-economic order.
N Sachin of Dayal Singh college spoke about how the CASR knitted together organisations and people of a wide range of political positions into a coherent forum, to challenge the framing of political prisoners in false cases.
Cultural team Kalam Kla Sangram performed a skit against oppression.
Solidarity messages were screened from foreign activists and organisation s like London based activists Sofia Karim, Jerico movement for release of political prisoners, Executive director of ‘Scholars at Risk”, various student groups of U.S.A,
Professor G .Haragopal also gave a solidarity message.
Possibly it missed out on sufficient representation of speakers from organisations of Industrial workers farmers and Students or other basic classes ,No doubt such intellectuals are an important component but it s imperative to mobilise the basic sections.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India