After months of being denied basic prisoner and human rights, Dr G N Saibaba has now resolved to go on an indefinite hunger strike, starting October 21st. Prison officials have denied Dr Saibaba- who is 90% disabled- basic rights such as access to to reading material, letters and- most alarmingly- medicines. He had been incarcerated under UAPA since 2014, and is in complete isolation in an “Anda cell”, and is at high-risk for COVID.
His wife, A S Vasantha Kumari and the Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba wrote statements requesting access to these rights on October 15th and 16th respectively.
Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba
The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba is pained to hear that Dr Saibaba will be going on hunger strike to demand the basic rights of every prisoner (access to reading material, letters and medicines). His health is deteriorating and the threat of contracting COVID-19 looms large.
Dr G N Saibaba has resolved to observe a hunger strike starting from 21st October 2020 in light of the denial of basic medical facilities to him within the Nagpur Central Jail and the denial of books and letters sent to him from family and friends. Unfair restrictions and harassment faced by him are compounded by the inability of family or lawyers to visit him in jail due to the on-going global COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr G N Saibaba, a professor of English in Delhi University with 90% disability lodged in Nagpur Central Jail, is incarcerated under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) since 2014. He has spent the last several years suffering grave physical ailments including the gradual paralysis of his functional limbs due to neglect and continuous denial of adequate treatment by the jail authorities. The repeated denial of parole or medical bail to Dr G N Saibaba despite his deteriorating physical health and the vulnerabilities of a person with co-morbidities facing the threat of contracting COVID-19 inside the over-crowded jail is a grave threat to his life. At this stage, withholding medicine provided by the lawyer is extremely concerning, and deprives him of crucial life-saving medicines that he may require.
Previously, even parole to attend his mother’s funeral and last rites was denied. He has spent the last several years in an Anda cell reading and translating texts and writing poetry. Books and letters are crucial for the well-being of every prisoner and the denial of access to them is a violation of their rights. Despite the family and advocates sending books to Dr G N Saibaba over the last several months, books that are in English and freely available in the markets, they are being unduly confiscated and retained by the jail authorities without reason. Moreover, letters written by family members are also being confiscated and held by the authorities. This is a gross violation of the rights of a prisoner. Additionally, newspapers and news clippings sent by post are also being withheld.
Alarmingly, the basic medicines required for the different ailments suffered by Dr G N Saibaba are being withheld, endangering his life. Furthermore, the right of every prisoner to legal counsel is being violated in the name of the pandemic as he is not allowed to make more than two calls per month and lacks the opportunity to discuss his case with his lawyers.
Dr Saibaba has demanded these basic rights be ensured for a life of dignity within jail. Failure to provide these facilities has forced him to resolve to undertake a hunger strike. In light of his health, the on-going pandemic, the inability of family members and advocates to meet him and the wretched conditions within prison, a hunger strike is bound to endanger Dr G N Saibaba’s life.
The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba appeals to the Nagpur Central Jail authorities to intervene and ensure the basic rights of Dr G N Saibaba are upheld, he is provided medicines, books and letters and ensures that his life is not endangered. We appeal to all democratic organisations and individuals to raise these concerns with the Nagpur jail authorities to ensure that Dr Saibaba’s rights under the custody of the State are not infringed upon.
Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba
Letter of A S Vasantha Kumari, Wife of Dr G N Saibaba to Additional Director General (Prisons) Pune, Maharashtra.
Sub: Request to allow books and letters to Dr G N Saibaba and prevent him from going on to hunger strike in the Nagpur Central Jail, Nagpur.
My husband Dr G N Saibaba, who is a 90% disabled person, is presently in Nagpur Central Jail as a convicted Prisoner. Prof. Saibaba is an academician and intellectual and was jailed under UAPA on inappropriate charges.
I have been informed that he is facing hardships and harassment in Nagpur Central Jail due to the inhuman behaviour and unfair restrictions laid down by authorities. He has taken a decision to go on hunger strike from 21st October 2020 until his following demands are resolved:
The books supplied by the family members and advocates shall be handed over to him without much delay. All these books supplied to him are in English, some of them are poetry books and some of them are either novels or literature-based books that are not banned under the law of the land. These are books available in the market, with open access, and should be provided to him according to the Jail laws. Some books given by the family have not been provided to Prof. Saibaba for a long time, and are rotting in the godown.
Letters written by the family members are being stopped and held by the authorities for a long time and are not supplied to him.
As a policy the jail authorities stopped the purchase of newspapers by him in the Jail due to the Pandemic Covid-19. So, some newspaper clippings and printouts sent by post are not given to him and are being held by the authorities along with the handwritten or typed personal letters addressed to him.
Sometimes all the medicines given by his advocates are not being given to him. He has multiple health problems and needs to take prescribed medicines every day to save his life. This can endanger is already fragile health.
The number of telephone calls to talk to family members and advocates during this COVID-19 pandemic are restricted to one or two per month. Please allow to make four calls i.e. at least one telephone call per week to family members in addition to his advocates whenever required. It is necessary to make calls with advocates to discuss legal matters.
Under his present health conditions and the prevailing COVID-19 spread, this hunger strike will put Prof. Saibaba’s life in danger. I request your kind self to take necessary action in this regard and see that he will not go on a hunger strike and give him the basic rights he has as a prisoner, providing him with the books and medicine.
(A.S. Vasantha Kumari)
Superintendent, Nagpur Jail, Nagpur