Our statement on the release of Prof GN Saibaba and his co-accused

Indian Labour Solidarity (UK) rejoices in the acquittal of Prof GN Saibaba, Hem Mishra, Mahesh Tirki, late Pandu Narote, Prashant Rahi and Vijay Tirki. Their release comes after over 10 years of wrongful incarceration, based on fabricated charges of being active members of a banned ‘Maoist’ organisation. Their actual ‘crimes’ were voicing the dreadful plight of the Adivasi (Indigenous/ tribal people), Dalits, Oppressed Castes and Religious Minorities People who suffer systematic corporate exploitation of waters, forests and land belonging to these People under various successive governments of India.

The Indian state was determined to gag these human rights activists at any cost. This presented a huge uphill legal battle for their human rights lawyers. In the case of Saibaba’s lawyer, Surendra Gading was himself put behind bars under similar falsified charges, under the notorious Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA) in the infamous Bhima Koregaon case. Surendra Gaddling, along with several of his co-accused, are languishing behind bars for over 5 years.

Without diminishing the tremendous work and accomplishment of the lawyers in getting justice for G N Saibaba and his co-accused, ILS shares the view stated by G N Saibaba in his press conference, after release, that “justice delayed is justice denied”. Over a decade of imprisonment has ruined their promising careers, devasted their families and destroyed their lives by depriving them of prime years of their lives. The cruelty of the slow-motion Indian judicial system can only really be known to those who are made to endure the painful process which is procedural punishment in itself.

G N Saibaba, who is 90% disabled, was locked in solitary confinement in the notorious ‘Anda cell’. His punishment violated the International Convention for disabled prisoners. The solitary confinement during his incarceration is recognised as torture under the UN Convention Against Torture. This treatment of Prof G N Saibaba can only be described as evil done by the cruel Indian prison system. This evil was further amplified by the prison authorities refusing medicine and hospital treatment to G N Saibaba and refusing a visit by his mother, who subsequently died without seeing justice for her son. G N Saibaba was refused to leave to attend to his mother’s last rites. The extent of this wanton cruelty, against an innocent man, really comes to the fore when one hears of government supporters, convicted rapists and murders, being allowed multiple leaves and other privileges during their life sentences; rapist Ram Raheem and murders/rapist in the Bilkis Bano’s case come to mind.

ILS stands in complete solidarity with the Committee for the Defence and Release of GN Saibaba in their demands:

1. The Committee appeals to the honourable Supreme Court to refuse to admit the appeal being filed by the Maharashtra government, against the order of acquittal, in the interest of ensuring that justice continues to prevail. (The Indian Supreme Court has now refused to stay the acquittal)

2. Dr. G.N. Saibaba should be reinstated to his post in Delhi University, with retrospective benefits and compensations.

3. Saibaba, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Mahesh Tirki, Vijay Tirki and family of Late. Pandu Narote should be granted compensation for the years long wrongful incarceration and loss of life of Pandu Narote under detention.

4. Draconian and repressive instruments of the state like the UAPA should be immediately repealed.

5. All charges against intellectuals and activists who have been similarly falsely detained under the UAPA in particular, such as those charged in the Bhima-Koregaon case, or those arrested during the anti-CAA/NRC struggle, should be dropped and they should be immediately released. 6. The lakhs of the poor and voiceless who languish in jails simply because they are considered inconvenient to political and corporate agendas should be released immediately.

10th March 2024