Condemning the “insensitive manner” in which former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba is being handled in Nagpur Central Jail, the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has demanded that the Centre and Maharashtra government release him on bail for treatment.
The wheelchair bound Saibaba, who was awarded life imprisonment for aiding and abetting Naxal activities, is 90% disabled with 19 serious health conditions. In a statement released on Thursday, the NPRD said his immune system is compromised and he has high blood pressure as well.
At a time when India is a day shy of recording 10 lakh cases of COVID-19, the NPRD said that the “deplorable” handling of prisoners like Saibaba is in violation of “all international conventions, as also domestic laws like the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, prison manuals etc.”
“Given the utterly deplorable conditions and overcrowding in the Nagpur Central Jail, were many guards and prisoners (one even close to his cell) have been infected with the dreaded Covid-19, there is every possibility that he may get catch the virus. This may prove dangerous given his co-morbidities. Saibaba also requires immediate hospitalisation to get treated for various other health conditions, which he is being currently denied (sic),” the statement added.
Saibaba’s disability is due to a combination of polio from his childhood – which has affected both his legs – and a condition of his spine and nervous system. According to his wife (to whom NewsClick had spoken to in June), his arms are paralysed as well, the first due to injuries sustained during his arrest and the other due to him being denied treatment in jail.
The NPRD mention that he has been “facing tremendous difficulties” in Nagpur Central Jail. The statement said that he is “mistreated and mishandled by the police and jail staff on a regular basis”. It added that fellow inmates are not able to assist him either due to him being put in solitary confinement in the “unhygienic conditions” of the anda (egg-shaped) cell.
"Given these circumstances, we demand upon the Central & Maharashtra governments to release him on bail immediately for facilitating his treatment at a facility of his choice,” the statement added.
In March 2017, the sessions court of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra had convicted Professor G.N. Saibaba and five others for alleged links with Maoists and for “waging war” against India. The court had incarcerated Saibaba with life imprisonment under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Section 120 B(criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Over two years ago, in March 2018, Saibaba had written to his wife, saying: “My health is not at all good. I am going through extreme pain in my abdomen and left hand. My head is breaking...”
Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba was an English Professor at Ram Lal College in Delhi University.