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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 10 New Delhi February 24, 2018

A Letter to My Dear Students and Fellow Teachers

Friday 23 February 2018

by G.N. Saibaba

The following is a letter received by Vasantha Kumari, the wife of Prof G.N. Saibaba, from the Delhi University professor now lodged in Nagpur’s Central Prison on the charge of being a Maoist activist. She decided to share the contents of the letter with the wider public and sent it to, inter alia, this journal for publication. The letter was received on February 13, 2018.

I dream of being in my classroom

day and night fettered behind

the strong iron beams

of my tiny solitary prison cell.

I see you, talk to you

and hug you by the force

of my frail land challenged life

in my unchained mind’s eye

as the desire for freedom

flows through the sinews

and veins of my blood stream

even as I am caged

far away from you.

Teaching is my forte,

breath and life, you know

I embraced literature 

for it clasps us with

our troubled histories,

philosophies and economics

of pangs of pain, tears,

fears and hopes

for a bright new day.

The cage of lies,

seditious clauses

and conspitorial confabulations

confine and keep me away

from your intimate and critical

engagement with knowledge

and warm affection for the liberty

of the trampled earth.

Dear friends,

I have lived all my conscious life on the campuses of learning and teaching in search of knowledge, love and freedom. In the course of this search, I learnt that freedom for a few was no freedom. I began to study histories, philo-sophies and literatures with more eagerness and critical engagement. That led me to look around myself closely. I travelled across and met people living in sub-human conditions. I realised that they never tasted freedom very much like me. I understood that castes and freedom can never co-exist. I began to speak to myself. Then I slowly started to speak to my fellow beings on my journey. I grasped a great void of silence around me. I saw a society of silence. I dashed myself against the boulders of silence. I brutally wounded myself. A vast majority of the multitudes have never been allowed to break their silence. Centuries of silence solidified in our lives below the high and barren rocks of argumentative India. I desired to break the prison-house of silence. I struggled within myself. The rocks were hard to move. I realised that I carried within myself our silent society. It wasn’t an easy journey.

It was such a long journey, strenuous and painful. Eventually, I thought I gathered a voice myself. I wanted my fellow beings also to have a voice of their own so that we could converse. In the process, my voice gradually began to emerge. I bewildered to see that my voice was heard. After some time, my voice even started to rise a bit. Then, suddenly fell an axe on my throat. My voice was silenced in one stroke.

Friends, today, I reel under excruciating pain relentlessly. The closure of my voice within me exploded my crippled body from each of my organ. One after the other, my organs started bursting. The silence within me explodes into shooting pain. My vocal cords acquired lesion making my voice a thin and inaudible shrill. My heart broke with Hypertrophic cardiomay-opathy. My brain has started having blackouts with a condition called syncope. My kidneys are silted with pebbles; gallbladder gathered stones and pancreas grew a tail of pain called pancreatitis. Nerve-lines in my left shoulder broke under the conditions of my arrest, named as brachial plexopathy. More and more organs of silence replaced the original. I have been living with explosive and shooting pain day in and day out. I am living on the margins of life.

My pain, a voiceless song,

my being a nameless mote.

If only my pain could speak,

I’d know who I am.

And if myself could find its essence,

I’d unravel the mystery of this world.

If I could seize this hidden mystery,

my silence would find expression

(Faiz Ahmad Faiz)

Eleven long months have passed. I continue to languish under the brutal conditions of incarceration without any relief. I am forced to live without any human dignity and bodily integrity. The conditions under which I am living have reduced me to sub-human and inhuman levels. You think of the crime attributed to me: I have lived for freedom, I have tried to find the voice of the voiceless and I tried to find my voice. I wrote about them, I spoke about them, those my fellow beings who are not allowed to have the voice of their own for centuries. This is my crime. Degrading my body and mind is not simply removing humanity from me alone, it is an act of dehumanising our entire society; our civilisational existence.

I hope none of you feel sympathetic to my condition. I don’t believe in sympathy, I only believe in solidarity. I intended to tell you my story only because I believe that it is also your story. Also because I believe my freedom is your freedom.


February 7, 2018 With love and regards,

G.N. Saibaba

Andacell, Central Prison, Nagpur

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