Professor GN Saibaba, who was given a life imprisonment for alleged ties to Maoists, continues to suffer in solitary confinement in prison despite absence of any credible evidence against him. Saibaba’s wife, Vasantha Kumari, addressed a press conference on Wednesday, held by the Delhi Chapter of Bastar Solidarity Network. She spoke about her recent meeting with Saibaba in prison, his deteriorating health condition, and how the state is denying him basic human rights which are granted to prisoners.
Saibaba is 90% disabled and his internal organs are failing. But he is not getting any medical attention. In his last letter to Vasantha, the DU professor wrote, “I am on a month’s lease of life. Justice or death, which will win?” Vasantha says the state wants Saibaba to die in prison to serve as an example to those who raise their voices for human rights and against state-sponsored oppression.
Saibaba used to actively raise the issue of Adivasis and their rights to live in forests. He also advocated against Operation Green Hunt at international platforms.
In Vasantha’s visits to Saibaba in prison, the authorities only allow them to speak to each other for 15-20 minutes. Most of their correspondence is through letters. Even those letters, Vasantha said, are often censored. “If I mention some meeting or conference happening for Saibaba’s release, those pages are removed.”
To try and make Saibaba’s stay in prison easier, Vasantha and other family members sometimes send him things like sweaters, fruits, books, etc. “Magazines like EPW, Tehelka, and Dastak are rejected.” Even the things that are accepted sometimes take months to reach Saibaba. He was sent a blanket in November as winter was setting in, but it reached him after one and a half months, Vasantha said.
She urged human rights groups to come together to demand the release of Saibaba and other people who have been incarcerated under false charges.
Apart from Vasantha, the press conference was addressed by Professor Nandita Narain, journalist Gautam Navlakha, and other civil rights activists.