Let’s make the world’s so-called largest democracy accountable for incarcerating a disabled scholar. A wheelchair-bound former Delhi University Professor, who is struggling with multiple ailments, is serving a life sentence under trumped up charges, for merely questioning the power and standing up for the poor and marginalized, as well as for the religious minorities who are being persecuted in India. GN Saibaba was convicted on March 7, 2017,after being branded as a sympathizer of Maoist insurgents.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has asked for his release on humanitarian grounds due to his deteriorating health and brutal jail conditions. Thousands of people across the world have signed petitions asking for his liberation. But the right wing Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi refuses to let him go. On the contrary, attacks on political dissidents and minorities have increased ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014.
It is pertinent to mention that when Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation and a towering leader of the passive resistance movement against British rule, was sentenced on March 18, 1922 his followers decided to observe the 18th of every month as “Gandhi Day” until he was released.
It’s a shame that the country that once fought against foreign occupation and its draconian laws is now being ruled by its own people, who have brought in even more stringent laws to suppress the voices of freedom. Saibaba is just one example of the extreme barbarity, while many continue to suffer the state violence in an independent India. Let’s reclaim the country of Gandhi’s dreams, and make noise for the release of Saibaba and all other political prisoners being jailed unfairly. For now, we can follow in the footsteps of the freedom fighters, and start observing every 7th of the month as “GN Saibaba Day” until he comes back home with dignity and respect. Nothing will be more fitting than to launch this initiative in the month of August, when the double-faced Indian leadership celebrates independence from the British, while continuing to oppress its own citizens to retain power and control by taking the refuge of patriotism.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist