The continuing imprisonment of human rights defenders GN Saibaba, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Mahesh Tirki and Vijay Tirki is State’s revenge, allege family members and colleagues of UAPA political prisoners on Monday.
On the 5th of December, Campaign Agaiant State Repression (CASR) held a public meeting in Surjeet Bhawan, Delhi to demand the release of GN Saibaba and other political prisoners Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Mahesh Tirki and Vijay Tirki. The speeches of kin of jailed and activists were accompanied by cultural performances, slogans and videos of solidarity from international organizations.
The first speaker was KD Mishra, father of student activist, Hem Mishra who was put behind bars for allegedly spreading misleading messages of GN Saibaba in ‘Naxalite’ regions. He was a student of Chinese language at JNU, Delhi.
KD Mishra said, “my son was called a Maoist for standing with the powerless. You know there should be rule of law but those in power twist it according to their whims.”
He then spoke of Saibaba, “Bombay High Court acquitted our Saibaba but Tushar Mehta put a stay on this. This was done as an emergency order on a Saturday, a grave sign for democracy and the judiciary in India.”
Vasantha Kumari, GN Saibaba’s partner elaborated upon the condition Sai is kept in the prison cell. “It is a torture cell, in function since the British time. He is being tortured despite being 90% disabled.”
She described the elation of the family when Sai was acquitted by the court. But the joy was shortlived. “Sai cleaned out his prison cell that day, all ready to leave. Then, they asked for cash and property papers. Where would we get this from?”, she said.
The attendees shared her sentiment and raised slogans for Saibaba’s immediate release.
She concluded, “All we are asking for is no land-grabbing and no displacement. Think whose side they are on and continue to speak against it. I hope this history will also be written about.”
Delhi University Professor, PK Vijayan talked about how GN Saibaba’s fight is much beyond him and emphasised upon the state machinery involved.
Vijayan went on to say: ”This is a symptom. Our fight is with the roots; the social typecasting of ‘Maowadis’ as India’s greatest internal threat.”
Vijayan then described the historical context of UPA government and Saibaba’s current movement. “Protests against land-grabs and displacements have decreased after his arrest. We need to accelerate our fight. There is much more that needs to be done.”
Everyone then arose to pay tribute to the activist Pandu Narote, which was followed by a cultural performance presented by Kalam Kala Sangram. Pandu Narote, 33, convicted alongside Saibaba under various sections of draconian UAPA for Maoist links, died on 25 August, in Nagpur GMCH hospital. While Narote died after contracting swine flu, his lawyer alleged that there was a delay in his treatment.
A few videos of solidarity from international organisations such as, scholars at Risk Network, Movement for Freedom for All Political Prisoners US and University student groups in the USA were screened at the event.
Prashant Bhushan in his speech said: ”UAPA is a draconian law which derives its workings from the sedition laws under the colonial era. But I believe that most political prisoners will get acquittal some day.”
On Saibaba’s legal case, he commented, “unfortunately, they gave their orders based on lack of sanctions. If the SC is made to give order also based on merit, then he might get acquittal.” Bhushan agreed that the order passed under emergency on a Saturday was wrong and concluded by saying, “we should not just ask for compensation but also persecution of the involved officers. And this is possible because seeing all the young attendees here, I believe resistance is still very much alive in the country.”
Saroj Giri, professor at Delhi University said:“We need to be aware of the state-corporate nexus here. Even us liberals are a part of it.” Adding, he said, “considering his recent resignation, we reached to Ravish Kumar to cover this event. He outrightly denied. Even liberals don’t care. The only hope against state repression now, is the Adivasi struggles.”
Giri talked about the how the secular vs communal binary leaves out the State-corporate nexus vs Adivasi movements’ reality.
Showing solidarity for Saibaba, he noted, “we see that the rupture of the state-capital nexus was made evident when the judge said Saibaba obstructed ‘development’. His imprisonment is the state’s revenge.”
CPI-ML(Liberation)’s member, Suchita De was the last speaker for the day. “The pictures of political prisoners behind us are a testament of how there is no freedom and dignity in India,” she reminded.
“Ours is a political fight. Saibaba’s brain is not dangerous. Those in power today in India are the most dangerous in this history of India,” De said.