A Maharashtra court on Tuesday convicted wheel-chair bound Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and five others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for ‘waging war’ against India and for their alleged Maoist links, and sentenced all but one to life imprisonment.
GN Saibaba, JNU student Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, journalist activist Prashant Rahi, tribal farmers from Gadchiroli district Mahesh Kariman Tirki and Pandu Pora Narote, and a tribal labourer from Kanker district in Chhattisgarh Vijay Nan Tirki have been prosecuted for the offence punishable under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38, 39 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. While five have been given life imprisonment, Vijay Nan Tirki has got 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Reacting to Gadchiroli Sessions Court’s judgment, Saibaba’s wife Vasantha Kumari said the charges against her husband had been concocted. “This judgment is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra, this is the first case in which all the persons charge-sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment.”
First Post, March 8
A lion in a forest eats almost all animals and birds. It eats away zebras, buffaloes, Ostrich etc. It has no biological feature to differentiate taste of meat. However, it prefers a prey which is easy to hunt , in other words, which is vulnerable, meaning not as a tiger or a cheetah, or which traverses against it with a face-to-face confrontation.
State is such a consolidated machinery which acts dastardly and effectively on most vulnerable sections and would not take to leave any of its contenders uncaught especially when they take head on. The distance between line of thinking of State and the line of thinking of the specified prey qualifies anyone as its prey.
Prof. Saibaba , a regular teacher of English literature in Delhi University , has been a voice against the State scuffling with it when it comes to the corporate plundering, green hunt or tribal rights. A man who is 90% disabled and much revered in academic and student circles, stood against the odds of the functioning of the state unequivocally raising his voice within India and internationally. He had been invited as a speaker by several universities to understand his voice of welfare and development of India, amongst other topics like literature. Prof. Saibaba is widely viewed as one of the finest intellectuals of balanced thinking amongst academia and as a confidant amongst students. He is the one who spearheaded the issue to implement reservations for OBCs in Delhi University.
There have been several writers, intellectuals and several activists in the country who championed the cause of the maoists including Prashanth Bhushan , who fought many cases of human right violations in respect of Maoists; Arundhathi Roy , who wrote out a sympthasising note as a complete book on how she wondered the commitment and ideology of Maoists spending time with them; VaravaraRao, an out and out revolutionary writer and supporter of Maoists; Prof. Haragopal, who was a conciliator when an IAS officer was abducted in Odisha by Maoists and has been instrumental representing the voice of Maoists in discussions with Government; Late Shankaran, IAS, who stood beside the tribals in the Naxal affected areas against practices of the Government ; and there are several to count on. While these venerable voices too have been targeted by the State, the kind and style of the victimisation of Saibaba is unparalleled. The basic question – how do we qualify one to be part of Maoists , who live their life underground, and how do we catergorise someone as ‘helping’ Maoists ?
Babasaheb Ambedkar was clearly unfavourable to violence naming it as ‘ anarchy’ (in his book on ‘Parliamentary Democracy’ ) and, however, he observed that failure of constitutional mechanism would invariably attract violence making the country self-destructive. As may be observed from the constitutional debates, he has not given any weightage to physically sabotaging any extreme deviation from constitutional morality even in case of Hindutva, on which he spent his life in despising it by heart. Babasaheb cautioned the Indians on imminent and persistent possibility of using administrative tactics to overrule constitutional morality as a dangerous phenomenon. The entire episode of victimization revolves around supersession of administrative tactics over constitutional morality. While the uprising of Maoists is the effect of failure of the Governments and relinquishment of constitutional morality by all the political parties as well as Government, the portrayal of Naxalism, by the State, as the prompter of invalidation of constitutional morality in the public does not hold strength. This is a country, where an ideology which considers fantasizing masturbation is considered as rape rules the entire Indian civilization of present age.
The charges against Prof. Saibaba and others is – “hatching a war against the Government “ under various sections and all the sections were accepted in entirety, which is actually rare and unique for any court. As we all know Police files charges against any accused under all possible sections, regardless of remote connection with them, as a matter of principle to ensure that the accused is surrounded with all possibilities of conviction and, in practice, it remains as a negotiation of punishment with the judiciary by police resulting in nullifying some and accepting some. The appalling story of Prof.Saibaba’s victimsation goes like this ( The fine details of dates are not mentioned here as the narrative is meant to give an idea of the backdrop and sensitise the perverted functioning of the Police, Bureaucracy, Politics and judiciarythe but not go around the thrill around the chilling experiences )–
The Naxal menace, as the Governments term it, has strong footholds on the borders of Maharashtra, Telangana and Chattisgarh especially encompassing Bastar/Dandakaranya forest area. Three tribal marginal agriculturalists and wage earners were caught by Maharashtra Police , reportedly when they were on their way to meet a lady maoist leader. The state police machinery, under the leadership of then IG Ravindra Kadam, pulled in another two ideological sympathisers – Hem Mishra, a JNU student, and Prashant Rahi, a journalist, though they were separately nabbed. While the torture and interrogation was on its way, Prof. Saibaba’s name , out of the blue, popped up in the charge sheet, filed against these five accused. We must understand here that Prof. Saibaba, raised in a backward caste family, came up in life out of abject impoverished family conditions. He grew up to head Revolutionary Democratic Front, a Marxist political urban organisation, at India level at a very young age. His physically handicapped body could not, at any time, pose as a hindrance to his furtherance as an activist and academic intellectual. The social capital built up around was not in consonance with the intellectual capital he has built in over a period of time and that made him more vulnerable comparative to others as illustrated above. By the time it was sensed that a conspiracy was building around, Prof. Saibaba’s house was raided by Maharashtra Police , under the guise that a house was burgled in a place called ‘ ahire ‘ in Maharashtra and the possible thief could be Prof. Saibaba residing in Delhi ( Please consider this fact and this is not a joke ! ). They raided Saibaba’s house in search of stolen property and took away Marxist literature and hard disk of his laptop. While this is so, the password to the hard disk was provided by Saibaba himself and the books are shown by Saibaba’s family itself which are lying in the open book shelves. Thereafter, in a span of two months, Police served a notice to Prof. Saibaba for an interrogation on the material they gathered from his house and the message was outspread to students, faculty and media. It was to their distressed dismay that Police found 200 people standing outside the residence of Prof. Saibaba , in solidarity with him, during the interrogation. This interrogation histrionics were subsequently mentioned in the chargesheet as the thwarted attempt to arrest him. Highly cautioned by the local foothold of Prof . Saibaba, Police had a different plot to arrest him. On an afternoon, while Saibaba was returning from an evaluation Centre after evaluating examination papers of the students, his car was surrounded by Police and the driver was taken into captivity too. The driver was blindfolded and the police took over the car to drive Prof. Saibaba to the air port. The location of his arrest was such, the same is in neither his college nor university campus nor his residence. As per the submissions of his family, the Police have kept intelligence police around the house for previous few weeks observing his daily movements and the same was forwarded to the notice of NHRC too by his family citing unwarranted invasion into their privacy. His wife was given a notice of his arrest through a telephone call from an unidentified number without revealing complete details of what is next. ( The fair details of authenticity of his arrest warrant and surrendering him before the magistrate at Gadchiroli could not be gathered by the author ). Prof. Saibaba was kept under Police custody under dreadful conditions in an Anda cell along with other non-political accused. Prof. Saibaba was not given proper medication for his ailments and was deprived of humanly sanitation conditions with no consideration to his physical disabilities. It is also reported that Prof. Saibaba was given medicines few days before attending the court during trial period so that the medical reports do not bring out glaring irregularities in his health and his bail petition was continuously got denied. Lastly, Supreme court could grant an interim bail reprimanding Police for playing the tactics to keep him under custody. One prime reason for non-bailability of Prof. Saibaba despite carrying most reasonable grounds for an accused entitled for bail, was the exaggerated severity of the crime under UAPA. The defence played by the Prosecutor was that Prof. Saibaba could disappear any time if the bail is granted. After, few more months Saibaba could get the final bail. In the meanwhile, despite given UGC rules, the university did not absorb him into regular duty and appointed ‘one man’ commission to look into how suspension cannot be invalidated. During the trial period, the family was vacated from the quarters and family went under several perils to find a house in Delhi having a toilet convenient for a physically challenged person. Added to this, it is gathered that police used to call up the owner directly advising them to abstain from any such attempt to let out the house to his family. Prof. Saibaba’s health drastically deteriorated during his remand and his left hand remained far less functional than it was. The attempt of the doctors to replace damaged muscle in the left arm was not considered as workable. The entire episode of trauma went on nearly for 4 years for Saibaba before it reached the final judgment stage. And, during this period , the family was financially rammed down into debts.
The hard disks and other evidences furnished by Police to the court were unsealed and forensic report, thus, cannot be ruled out as a fabricated one. The judgment repeatedly blamed him for being a member of Revolutionary Democratic Front which is a legal organisation and its ban in 2 states is already challenged in Supreme Court. Many of the witnesses include police too, which actually goes against ‘conflict of interest’ in the case. The legal experts are reviewing the entire case wondering how every section under which the charges were framed could get accepted by a Court in toto and consider such a lengthy imprisonment without proving his physical involvement in any of the unlawful activities.
Before Prof. Saibaba was sentenced for life imprisonment, he was hospitalized for treatment to Pancreas infection. The doctors advised him to undergo an immediate surgery within a month’s time. The present health condition after he is taken into custody is unknown.
The above narrative is gathered from Saibaba, his wife, the correspondence by Saibaba, charge sheets, judgment and other related case papers. These facts are absolutely frail to be proven in the manner and fashion the courts and bureaucracy desires them to be so and this remains as the version unheard in main strea,. However, certain absurdities remain unresolved and unanswered.
- How Prof. Saibaba can have alliance with tribal agriculturists to wage war against the Government ?
- How ‘a hire’ theft case got linked to UAPA case ?
- Why Saibaba was abducted in a fashion nothing less than hooliganist way ?
- How Prof. Saibaba’s ideological commitment can be eligible for punishment ?
- What the links with Maoists does exactly mean ? Is a shared appreciation part of terrorist activity ? How this ‘link ‘ can be established when no single Maoist was caught (charged ) along with him except for all legal individuals ?
- How Prof. Saibaba travelled near double digit number of countries exposing the harassment of tribals at international fora getting visas from the respective Governments ?
Victim of conscience and media trial
The question is whether Prof. Saibaba has got some connections with Maoist party or not is actually less relevant. The ponderable question is – if a person is at the other extreme end of raising an argument against the functioning of the Government,is branded as a total loathsome individual. Our civilized society is putting bar on the extent of disagreement with the principles of governance. It is ‘fake encounters’ which get easy moral as well as social acceptance. Till date, the loss of lives due to police raids and army combing operations is larger than what Maoists committed.
Lack of social capital around Prof. Saibaba
Prof. Saibaba, having raised from a poor rural backward caste family joined the Marxist thinkers community could actually not gather as much social capital required as for such a range of activism. He suffered utter lack of adequate expert legal counseling and tried to manage within the limits. His financial constraints too could not give a flexibility to stretch beyond a limit to fight the case.
Association with tribal cause
It is apparent in Indian civil society that tribals are less considered as Indians and any specific protection of their interest is never viewed in countenance. The areas like Bastar have already got an image like they stay away from the country. The tribals were never part of discussions in main stream sections except when a large industrial projects are planned in their habitations.
A war against intelligentsia
The Governments have no political solution to address Maoist issue in this country while the liberal academic and urban intelligentsia started rallying behind the ideology mooted by them. This is gathering a moral support at a macro level and attaching credibility to the sincere anger of Maoists. In such case, Governments resorted to a war on Intelligentsia in which prof. Saibaba has become an important victim.
A dreadful UAPA
while there has been enough debate all over on this dreadful act which arms Government and Police with all unreasonable powers, it is not to be misled that the very arrest of Prof. Saibaba itself is an inappropriate execution of legal frame work and the manipulative and unchecked functioning of the State , that can happen around any other Act too.
The case of Prof. Saibaba would remain in history for all its peculiar absurdities and a rarest instance of total acceptance of Police charges by a Court in such kind of instances. This uniquely teaches a lesson that the principle, on which the State is functioning is perfect, theoretically and practically,and the same can be challenged within a ‘delta’ range but not in any range encompassing a specific ideology like Marxism or Islam.
At the end of the day, this remains as a classic case to convince international academia that a 90% disabled man, who has a family in the heart of a metro capital attending several mass and academic gatherings and catering to his professional teaching in college can wage a war against the Government and he can be sentenced as much to a level as a murderer.
- P Victor Vijay Kumar