Professor G.N. Saibaba along with four other comrades was sentenced to life imprisonment by a session’s court in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra on 7th March 2017. Prof Saibaba, who is 90% disabled, was earlier arrested on May 9, 2014, when the police picked him up without any notice from his residence. He was lodged in Nagpur Central Jail for 14 months following his arrest. Subsequently, in March 2016, he was granted bail on grounds of his deteriorating health.
Prof Saibaba, Hem Mishra, Mahesh Tikri, Pandu Narote, Prashant Rahi and Viijay Tikri have been convicted under various sections of the fascist Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). There have been wide spread protests in different parts of the country against this. Several students and teachers organisations of the universities of Delhi issued a joint statement condemning the conviction and incarceration as an attack on the right to dissent. They organized a joint protest demonstration in front of parliament on March 11 demanding the unconditional release of these comrades and the immediate repeal of the UAPA.
Prof Saibaba and his comrades who were students and cultural workers have been convicted for allegedly being members of the CPI (Maoist). This indictment would appear to go against earlier judgments by the Supreme Court, which said “mere membership of a banned organisation would not make a person criminally liable unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence”. According to his lawyer, there is no evidence that he had “any role to play in any violence, or in incitement to violence, or any active participation at all”.
The Judge charged Saibaba and his comrades with “waging war against the state”. Further he declared “Situation of Gadchiroli district from 1982 till today is in paralysed condition and no industrial and other developments are taking place because of fear of naxals and their violent activities. Hence, in my opinion, the imprisonment for life is also not a sufficient punishment to the accused but the hands of the court are closed with the mandate of Section 18 and 20 of UAPA…“. The court has sentenced Saibaba and his comrades to life imprisonment, not on the basis of any evidence of violent activities, but by demonizing them as Naxals and violent marauders. They have been convicted for waging war against the state merely on the basis of upholding an ideology and criticizing the anti people policies of the government.
Saibaba has spoken out against human rights abuses by the Salwa Judum and Operation Greenhunt, launched by the Chhattisgarh government. It is widely known that the arrest in 2014 and his brutal torture under detention were meant to muzzle his voice. Many individuals who have spoken out against the suppression of democratic rights by the state have been charged under the UAPA, which has the most draconian provisions and has been consistently used to criminalise dissent. This Act was passed in 1967 and its powers were greatly expanded in 2008 and again in 2012. The main purpose of the Act is to give the State draconian powers to harass people.
The conviction of Prof. Saibaba and others is nothing but state terrorism. The State unleashes savage repression on workers, peasants and tribal peoples fighting for their rights, and it arrests, tortures, and jails all men and women of conscience who dare to expose and criticize this. Communist Ghadar Party of India condemns this latest by the State on the right to conscience and demands that the fascist UAPA be immediately repealed.