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Mainstream, VOL52, No. 22, May 24, 2014

On Torture and Confinement of G.N. Saibaba

Friday 23 May 2014

The following is the press release of the Delhi University Community against Police Repression at a press conference on the detention of Dr G.N. Saibaba, who is teaching at Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi, at New Delhi’s Press Club of India on May 13, 2014.

On May 9, 2014 Dr G.N. Saibaba, while returning to his home from Daulat Ram College after examination duty for lunch, was intercepted on the way, blindfolded and taken to Aheri, Maharashtra by the Gadchiroli Police. He was produced before the Magistrate the next day, and remanded to judicial custody at the Nagpur Central Jail for a period of 14 days. The delegation of teachers and social activists who met the authorities at the Maharashtra Sadan New Delhi on May 10, 2014 was told that G.N. Saibaba was being ‘properly taken care of’ given his medical condition and 90 per cent physical disability. The Gadchiroli Police in its media briefing insisted that he was being properly treated. They said that he has been sent to the Nagpur Jail because, according to the police, neither the Aheri nor the Gadchiroli Jail were equipped to hold a person with 90 per cent disability. On May 12 Ramdev, Saibaba’s younger brother, who learned of Saibaba’s arrest through the media as well as the family, reached Nagpur and had a limited jaali mulaqaat with Saibaba.

Saibaba told him that he was being held in a highly unsanitary, solitary, ‘unda cell’, that was almost totally dark. He was not allowed contact with anyone in the prison. It is physically impossible for someone with 90 per cent disability to move around let alone do anything in a dark, cramped space like the unda cell shut off from the rest of the inmates. Even visits by the family are limited to once a week. He also informed Ramdev that he was being denied all medication even though the police doctor had prescribed and supplied medication for him. G.N. Saibaba is a heart patient, suffers from high blood pressure, and has chronic and severe pain in the lower spinal region due to his condition. He is on regular medication—including painkillers and anti-inflammation tablets—for these ailments. Saibaba also informed Ramdev that he was experiencing great difficulty and pain while using the toilet since it is impossible for him to use the Indian style commode.

The next day when Ramdev went to meet the Nagpur Jail Superintendent to request him to provide Saibaba with his medication, basic amenities and assistance, he was informed that the Nagur Jail was not equipped to deal with Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) let alone one with Saibaba’s acute level of disability. He also said that he was never informed that G.N. Saibaba was a PWD, and that too with a 90 per cent disability. He appeared uneasy about the developments and Saibaba’s presence in the Nagpur Jail. He confirmed that there was no Western-style commode available for prisoners. The police claim that they sought judicial custody at Nagpur because it had the facilities for him is clearly and utterly false. We believe that the police used Saibaba’s disability in court because they actually wanted him lodged in an ‘unda Cell’, and the closest available one is in the Nagpur Jail. This location also transfers the responsibility for any eventuality onto the Nagpur Jail.

Despite Ramdev’s repeated requests, the Superintendent refused to take medicines that Ramdev had brought for Saibaba. Ramdev apprehends that the denial of medication may prove fatal to his brother. Unda cell confinement, denial of medication leading to constant pain and deterioration of health, mental torment, denial of basic amenities, are acknowledged forms of custodial torture. It is important to emphasise that in the case of G.N. Saibaba to deny him the basic facility that is needed for a 90 per cent disabled person, and to leave him unattended itself is severely detrimental to his well-being and possibly fatal.

The Indian Government has also brought in a new regime of law for the physically disabled and the claim so far has been that this is and should be in force in every walk of life. But the fact of matter, as is evident from the treatment of utter neglect meted out to G.N. Saibaba in the abysmal jail conditions of Nagpur Central Jail, is that the government in practice violates every word of the law that has been in force for at least a decade. Furthermore, the arrest was cynically timed to try and ensure that both it and the consequences of it would get buried in the heat and dust of the elections, government formation and university exams. We are appalled at the events that have unfolded, the pace at which they have unfolded and the direction they are taking.

We demand that the torture and confinement of Saibaba cease immediately and that he be released immediately and unconditionally. We further reiterate that till his release he be given all the facilities that are guaranteed by the law as a physically disabled person.

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