On 8th October, despite heavy rains, citizens of Delhi joined the 'India Behind Bars' Conference at Press Club of India in solidarity with political prisoners incarcerated various under acts like UAPA, AFSPA, NSA and PSA, etc. Along with family members and friends of those incarcerated, teachers and activists spoke against the assault on democratic rights by the BJP regime.
Khalid Saifi is one of among dozens of anti-CAA activists who have imprisoned since 2020. Nargis Saifi, political activist and wife of Khalid Saifi addressed the gathering saying, "The injustice inflicted on Khalid is injustice to the country. Khalid's fight was the fight for constitutional values. We shall not rest until all prisoners facing wrongful targeting by BJP government are released."
Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPIML said, "This fight against the BJP is of the magnitude of our freedom struggle. We must awake a new political consciousness to fight this regime of hate and violence." Jenny Rowena, Professor in DU and partner of Hany Babu spoke against UAPA saying, "the UAPA is a way of punishing people when you have no way of silencing them. It is not a law but a tool of violence on democracy."
Rajya Sabha MP, Manoj Jha addressed the gathering saying, "I was present in the Parliament when latest amendments to UAPA was introduced. All the fears and criticisms that we had articulated, today stand vindicated by this brutal attack on democratic forces." Vasantha, activist and partner of GN Saibaba said, "Saibaba has been battling various health issues for so many years. This government has no basic sense of responsibility and empathy towards its own citizens."
"Cases, arguments and laws that sound bizarre to our minds have been normalized by this dictatorial government", said Banojyotsna Lahri, political activist and friend of Uma Khalid. Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate stated, "Nowhere in the world does a democracy give this absolute power to the police and the political executive in determining whether someone is a terrorist. UAPA is an anomaly for a democratic society." Nandini Sundar, Professor, DU addressed the gathering saying "Now the police is deciding what intellectuals of the country can write and what they cannot write. They are deciding what people can say or not say."
Neha Dixit, independent journalist spoke of the eroding independence of judiciary. She said, "There has been complete politicization of lower and higher level courts in the sense that senior officials of courts are filing cases against independent journalists and activists today. This government and the RSS have destroyed the independent character of the judiciary." Arfa Khanum, Senior editor of the Wire said, "today, any person who questions the government knows the fear of repression. This normalized fear must be fought with courage."
The students and teachers were beaten and detained by Delhi Police on 15 October from Delhi University while they gathered for a protest called by AISA demanding release of Prof GN Saibaba and others as ordered by the Bombay HC. As soon as students gathered at Arts Faculty, a brutal repression was unleashed by the authorities and Delhi Police. Students were beaten, manhandled and injured when the police forcibly detained them. The protesters were taken to Burari Police Station where a protest public meeting took place.
Teachers of Delhi University, Nandita Narain, Saroj Giri and Jitendra Meena visited and addressed the gathering at Burari Police Station in solidarity with the students demanding release of GN Saiba and all political prisoners.
The protesters were released at 6PM after filing FIR on several activists including AISA Delhi President Abhigyan and AISA DU Jt. Secretary Manik.
A citizens’ protest was held in Patna on 17 October condemning SC order against the release of Prof. Saibaba and others. The protesters demanded release of all political prisoners and to stop persecusion of activists by the BJP government.
AIPF, RYA, AISA and Dasham called for this protest which was attended by many prominent citizens. The protest was addressed by ex-Prof. of Patna University Santosh Kumar, AIKM leader KD Yadav, AIPWA’s Shashi Yadav, Vikas Kumar of AISA, AIPF convenor Kamlesh Sharma, Prof. Satish Kumar and many others. They strongly opposed the government for using the criminal justice system as a weapon against its own citizens who stand for the rights of the people.
A protest was held in Moulali, Kolkata by AISA and CPIML on 17th October demanding release of Prof Saibaba and others. An effigy of the Narendra Modi government, that has unleashed NIA and other central government agencies to silence and imprison dissenters, was burnt at the protest. CPIML West Bengal State Committee member comrade Basudev Basu addressed the protest saying that the Maharshtra Government, that is essentially a puppet in the hands of the BJP led central government, was swift in approaching the Supreme Court against the release order of Prof. GN Saibaba and others. He added saying that this swift action reveals the real intention of imprisoning Saibaba and other political prisoners. The government is not ready to tolerate any criticism of its functioning. This is a scared and anti-people government.
The Supreme Court Did Not Just Stay the Release of Prof. G.N. Saibaba and Others, It Suspended the Rule of Law
While the acquittal of GN Saibaba, Mahesh Kariman Tirki, Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, Prashant Sanglikar and Vijay Tirki, by the Bombay High Court was a victory for the battle for the release of all political prisoners, the same was short-lived as the Supreme Court in a special sitting held on a Saturday morning, suspended the said order and stayed their release. After being incarcerated for 6 years, Prof G.N. Saibaba the others were acquitted by the Bombay High Court in its order delivered on 13th October 2022. Sadly, Pandu Narote died during the pendency of the appeal.
Prof. G. N. Saibaba, who is in a wheelchair with a 90% physical disability also suffers from a serious heart condition, acute pancreatitis and gall bladder stones and is in need of immediate medical attention. A request for house arrest was also rejected. In the Press Conference held in Delhi on 'India Behind Bars', Vasantha, activist and partner of GN Saibaba had said, "Saibaba has been battling various health issues for so many years. This government has no basic sense of responsibility and empathy towards its own citizens."
The manner in which the present regime has weaponised an already unjust criminal justice system to lock up anyone standing up against its unjust policies is clear in its use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
CPIML will continue to fight for the release of political prisoners and the repeal of all draconian laws.