The Solidarity & Social Justice Committee (SSJC) of the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) expresses our solidarity with human rights activist Dr. G.N. Saibaba. First arrested on May 9, 2014 on charges of having so-called Maoist links, Delhi University Professor Saibaba has been incarcerated under terrible and solitary conditions at Nagpur Central Jail. Since this initial arrest, he was briefly freed before being recaptured and given a life sentence.
Dr. Saibaba has a severe disability and is not receiving proper treatment or care in prison. Recently, a panel of experts with the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights wrote to the Indian government urging authorities to immediately release Saibaba, citing his “seriously deteriorating” health condition: “Dr. Saibaba’s health problems require immediate and sustained medical attention and are reaching a point of being life-threatening.”(1)
Dr. Saibaba is facing unjust punishment for being a tireless defender of the rights of “untouchables” and indigenous peoples in India, specifically those in the mineral-rich areas of the country’s central region. Those close to him believe his harsh punishment is being used as a warning to social justice activists to suppress any dissent against the Indian state.(2) He has worked with activists and movements to resist national and multinational corporations who extract resources from the region at the cost of the environment and displacement of indigenous communities.
The Committee expresses our appreciation and solidarity to Dr. Saibaba for being a long-standing defender of human rights against corporate interests. We call on the Indian judicial system to guarantee that Dr. Saibaba, and all human rights defenders in the country, “are able to conduct their legitimate work without fear of threats or exposure to any act of intimidation or reprisals.”(3)
We further call on the Canadian government to urgently intervene in his aid on humanitarian and compassionate grounds; in 2017 roughly 1,000 Canadians signed a petition in favour of his freedom. We are alarmed by the treatment of Dr. Saibaba and call for his immediate release from Nagpur prison so as to provide necessary healthcare.
Solidarity and Social Justice Committee,
Teaching Support Staff Union
(1) “India: UN experts call for release of human rights defender Saibaba,” April 30, 2019, United Nations Human Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24534&LangID=E
(2) Gurpreet Singh, “Jailed disabled activist G.N. Saibaba gains support from United Nations experts,” July 1, 2018, Georgia Straight, https://www.straight.com/news/1097211/gurpreet-singh-jailed-disabled-activist-gn-saibaba-gains-support-united-nations-experts
(3) “UN experts urge India to release rights defender Dr. G.N. Saibaba on health grounds,” June 28, 2018, United Nations Human Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23284&LangID=E