The best way to stop me was to throw me in jail, says Saibaba
His campaign was seen as anti-investment.
After a 14-month imprisonment at the Central Jail in Nagpur, G.N. Saibaba, a wheelchair-bound Professor of English at Delhi University accused of having Maoist links, is settling back in his house on the varsity campus. Last Friday, the Mumbai High Court granted him bail for three months, so that he could consult doctors for several ailments. The court’s ruling followed a suo motu litigation based on an e-mail to the Chief Justice by activist Purnima Upadhyay citing a news report in The Hindu that described how Professor Saibaba’s health was deteriorating in the prison. Professor Saibaba sat in a small room of his house decorated with bookracks and old calendars.
Months of separation from his family has left him slightly disoriented. He feels something is missing at home. “I guess the liveliness in the family is gone,” he told The Hindu. “It’s been a traumatic experience for all of us. I don’t know how long it will take us to be happy again.” Though he is facing charges of being affiliated with the outlawed Maoist leaders, he comes across as a man who has a firm faith in democracy. In the early 1990s, he started off as a pro-reservation activist, standing against the forces that attempted to scrap the reservation policy for disadvantaged lower-caste Indians. By mid-1990s, he was campaigning against the Andhra Pradesh Police for what he called “encounter killings” of innocents and Naxalites.
Most of his peers, he said, were assassinated by unknown assailants, who, he believes, were state-sponsored hit men. “I lost 10 activist friends in a span of 10 years,” he said. “Their fault was that they criticised the killings of Naxalites and claimed their bodies so that they could give them a funeral. That didn’t go down well with the government.” After he moved to Delhi, he coordinated a campaign against the military offensive in tribal areas, which hurt investment badly. He said the authorities decided that “the best way to stop me was to throw me in jail.”
‘Green Hunt aimed to dislodge tribal people’
In the early 2000s, Dr. Saibaba moved to Delhi to teach English literature at Ramlal Anand College, Delhi University. It was not the fear for life that forced him to leave Andhra Pradesh and migrate to Delhi. He grew disillusioned with the coursework, which he taught as an adjunct lecturer in a local college for over a decade. In September 2009, the Congress government launched Operation Green Hunt, a military offensive aimed at flushing out Maoist rebels from across the tribal belt of India.
By then, Professor Saibaba’s activism had taken him across the central Indian tribal belt. “I have been to almost every Adivasi district. It wasn’t that difficult for a physically challenged person like me. The Adivasis took me on their shoulders and walked me up to the hilly forests,” he said. “I gathered enough evidence that suggested the ruling class wanted access to their resources no matter what. So the Operation Green Hunt was launched to kill, maim and dislodge these people.”
Between 2009 and 2012, when the operation was at its peak, he mobilised public intellectuals under a group named Forum Against War on People. He coordinated a nationwide campaign against the military offensive, slamming and shaming it to its core. His campaign, he said, started to bite the government with several international investors withdrawing investments from the tribal belt. On the afternoon of May 9, 2014, he was heading back home from the university, hoping to join his wife and mother for lunch.
A group of policemen in plainclothes stopped his car, dragged the driver out and drove him out of the university campus.The next morning after his arrest from Delhi, Professor Saibaba was flown to Nagpur, where the District Magistrate heard his case and sent him to prison. Evidence “The evidence was that the police had found some press statements [of Maoist leaders] from my pen drive,” he said. “Another piece of evidence was that I had written a letter to some top Maoist leader. To this day, the police never showed me that letter.” At the country’s most notorious Anda jail, which means egg-shaped prison, Dr. Saibaba was not allowed to use the toilet for the next 72 hours. The harassment took a heavy toll on his health.
Maoist Active in Tri-junction, Says Q Branch
MADURAI: A fresh alert issued by the Tamil Nadu Q Branch police to districts bordering Kerala has stated that there was increasing movement of Maoists in the tribal villages in Wayanad and Palakkad districts of Kerala. According to police sources, in the alert issued this week, the Q branch police have claimed at least two sightings of Maoists in the last week of June in two different tribal villages in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. One incident happened in Vallavetti village under the Agali police limits in Palakkad district in which around 35 Maoists in uniform, including five women, camped for a night. They allegedly spoke about their ideology to Tamil-speaking tribals, police sources said.
Another incident happened in Kurichiya colony, a tribal hamlet in Wayanad district in which five Maoists including two women distributed copies of their clandestine publication “Kaatuthee” to the villagers. The alert gains significance given the recent arrest of four people with Maoist links in Coimbatore. Police said at least three such alerts had been issued in the past one month which showed increased movement of Maoists in tribal villages in the three-state junction of Kerala, TN and Karnataka. The alert was issued to bordering districts of Coimbatore, Theni, Dindigul, Nilgris and also Madurai and Erode. Police personnel have been asked to keep their eyes open to any suspicious movement in their respective districts.
Maoists sighted at Kelakam colony
KANNUR: The district police are on fresh alert following the latest sighting of suspected Maoists in a colony at Kelakam here on Monday. Three men in military fatigues visited the Ramachi colony in the Kelakam police station limits at 9.30 am and visited the house of one Kelappan and stayed for nearly 30 minutes, the police said adding that the men are suspected to be Maoists. Two of them were reportedly carrying firearms, the police said quoting local residents in the colony.
The Adivasi colony close to the forest area has only four families, the police informed. The suspected Maoists gave a copy of ‘Kattuthee’, Maoist mouthpiece, to the residents of the colony before they left for the forests. The police team that reached the area later conducted a search in the forest area close to the Karnataka border. Personnel of the Thunderbolts Kerala, the commando wing of the State police, also participated in the search operation.
Maoists hold meeting on first day of bandh
People from as many as 30 villages have reportedly attended a meeting conducted by the banned CPI (Maoist) on the Andhra-Odisha border on Monday, the first day of the two-day bandh. The meeting was conducted by the Malkangiri-Visakha-Koraput division committee of the party and the committee’s secretary Venu had renewed the party’s warning to the five families that the party accused of involving in the killing of two Maoists near Korukonda in Visakha Agency during October last.
The party would not spare the five families but the rest of Girijans living on the Andhra-Odisha border need not fear the Maoists and could stay in their villages. There was no need for the Girijans to flee from their villages, he had reportedly said. Venu also demanded the people’s representatives to pass resolutions in the Gram Sabhas and legislative bodies against the State Government’s proposal to take up bauxite mining in the Agency area. He also wanted the people’s representatives to resign their posts and participate in the Girijans’ agitation against bauxite mining.
The large number of people participating in the meeting was significant since there was not much of Maoist activity in Visakha Agency and one Maoist was killed and some others had a narrow escape from police in exchanges of fire that took place in recent past. The bandh call received no response in the Agency on the first day.