On 13 February 2021, it was revealed that Professor G.N. Saibaba tested positive for COVID-19. This is an extremely dangerous development, given that he already suffers from serious ongoing health problems, including heart and kidney issues.
We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about his health, and urgently appeal to the appropriate authorities to immediately release Professor Saibaba on medical parole, in order to allow him to be treated with the care that is required for a COVID-19 patient with several comorbidities.
Professor Saibaba, a scholar of English in the Ram Lal Anand College of Delhi University, was arrested in 2014 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, on grounds of being involved in alleged “anti-national” activities and having alleged links to Maoists – charges Professor Saibaba denies. In 2015, he was released on temporary medical bail. On 7 March 2017, while receiving medical treatment in intensive care, he was sentenced to life by a trial court judge. He was then moved to solitary confinement in a high security cell in Nagpur prison, where he continues to be incarcerated.
During the past five years, the government has consistently ignored and rejected appeals and petitions demanding that Professor Saibaba be provided with medical care appropriate to his ailments or that he be allowed medical bail to seek treatment. His lawyer was not permitted to hand over various essentials brought for him. In a particularly cruel, arbitrary, and unnecessary act, the government refused to grant his request to visit his mother on her deathbed. She died in 2020, unable to see her son as per her last wishes.
Professor Saibaba suffers from paralysis due to post-polio syndrome, a condition which requires assistance with basic hygiene tasks and mobility. When forced to go into quarantine he will suffer not only from the disease itself, but also from the lack of help with his daily needs. His wife, Vasantha Kumari, said that during their last phone call Professor Saibaba “could speak with great difficulty. We could make out he was breathless, his throat was sore.” She is understandably concerned that, even after a positive COVID-19 test, the Indian government and the government of Maharashtra state will continue their practice of denying basic medical care to Professor Saibaba.
When asked for comment, Nagpur Central Prison Superintendent Anup Kumre said Professor Saibaba was sent for a check-up to the Government Medical College and Hospital and is being treated in his cell by the prison doctor. The Government Medical College and Hospital is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and does not have facilities to accommodate patients in wheelchairs, such as Professor Saibaba. Moreover, there is reason to believe treatment provided by the prison doctor is insufficient, given that prison authorities have repeatedly denied Professor Saibaba adequate medical care and allowed his health problems to worsen over the years.
Given Professor Saibaba’s grave medical situation, we call on the appropriate authorities to secure his immediate release on medical parole and, pending his release, ensure that he receives proper and immediate treatment. In particular, we seek the appropriate authorities’ assistance in ensuring that he be allowed to seek treatment at a private hospital in Nagpur which is equipped to provide him with proper treatment and accommodate his disability.
International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India)
Scholars at Risk
Free Saibaba Coalition – US
Global Indian Progressive Alliance (GIPA)
India Civil Watch International (ICWI)
Boston South Asian Coalition (BSAC)
The Humanism Project
Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI)
South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG)
Ambedkar King Study Circle (California) (AKSC)
Canadians Against Oppression & Persecution (CAOP)
University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre
Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR)
Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)
Coalition Against Fascism in India (CAFI)
Progressive India Collective