A Maharashtra court on Tuesday convicted wheel-chair bound Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and five others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for ‘waging war’ against India and for their alleged Maoist links, and sentenced all but one to life imprisonment.
Reacting to Gadchiroli Sessions Court’s judgment, Saibaba’s wife Vasantha Kumari said the charges against her husband had been concocted. “This judgment is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra, this is the first case in which all the persons charge-sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment.”
“He has been framed. The BJP government wants to push ‘nakedly’ the agenda of the RSS by throwing people like Saibaba and others behind bars to suppress the voice of people who raise a red flag against undemocratic policies,” Vasantha Kumari, who is a constant shadow to Saibaba as the latter suffers from paraplegic with almost 90 percent disability, told Firstpost in an extensive interview.
Edited excerpts follow:
What is your reaction to this judgment?
This judgment is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra, this is the first case in which all the persons charge-sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment. The charges against Saibaba have been concocted. His brother attended most of the hearings. Going by the verdict it seems that the arguments presented by our advocates before the honorary judge and the court, have not been taken into consideration. No evidence has been proved by the prosecution.
What exactly happened? Did you ever imagine this kind of verdict against Saibaba?
Tuesday was the day of the pronouncement of the verdict. Despite having extremely poor health, my husband went to Gadchiroli Sessions Court to attend the last day’s hearing, like he did in the past. He never skipped trials and hearings unless it became very difficult for him to do so. At around 3 pm, when the court pronounced the verdict, the Maharashtra Police immediately took him out of the court, without giving any time to communicate further. He has been shifted to Nagpur Central Jail. We could never imagine that the judgment would be so unexpected and shocking, as no serious charges that lead to life imprisonment were proved against Saibaba.
What are the charges slapped against Saibaba and five others?
GN Saibaba, JNU student Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, journalist activist Prashant Rahi, tribal farmers from Gadchiroli district Mahesh Kariman Tirki and Pandu Pora Narote, and a tribal labourer from Kanker district in Chhattisgarh Vijay Nan Tirki have been prosecuted for the offence punishable under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38, 39 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. While five have been given life imprisonment, Vijay Nan Tirki has got 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
The allegations against them are that they hatched a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India and to collect people with the intention of waging war, to shake and reduce the faith of the common citizen in its democratic government by large-scale violence, destruction of lives and property, and thereby destabilise the system of government established by law. Having connections with CPI(Maoist) and its frontal organisation Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) to continue the activities of terrorist gang is another charge. There are many other charges.
What are you planning next?
Our advocates will move High Court soon. This judgment is shocking because no evidence has been proved by the prosecution. After the pronouncement of the verdict, the judge rejected to issue any order on the appeal of our advocates, who had urged the court to direct the jail authorities to provide medicines and assistants to help Saibaba for his physical movement. Last week, he was in hospital due to an infection in the pancreas and stones in the gall bladder. The doctor advised him complete bed-rest and after four weeks, his gall bladder needs to be operated upon. We’ll move High Court for all these. Our advocates are going through the order copy to chart the further course of action. There is hardly any evidence against him — the trial proved this. We will definitely challenge the verdict. Saibaba has been attending the court all these years. As a wife, now I will fight in the higher courts to seek justice.
What about evidence, as Saibaba has been accused of having strong Maoist links and being a Maoist ideologue?
No evidence has proved him so. The electronic evidence collected from our house by the police during the raid was not sealed. Who knows what other false evidence has been added to it? Saibaba worked for the adivasis and Dalits. He had extensively campaigned against the Salwa Judum militia (in Bastar) and the human rights violations that accompanied Operation Green Hunt against Maoists. The security forces are killing tribals under false encounters, women are being raped. There is mining loot in Bastar by the multinational companies and corporate houses; and adivasis are being exploited. It seems the state and Central governments have put a lot of pressure on the judiciary to implement anti-people and undemocratic policies at the behest of corporates and MNCs. As Saibaba raised his voice against these, the governments have selectively framed charges against him to suppress the voice of people to plunder the resources of this country.
Do you see any politics in the entire episode?
It seems the BJP government wants to push ‘nakedly’ the agenda of the RSS by throwing people like Saibaba and others behind bars. The government has chosen this case through courts to silence the voice of Saibaba.
As you have a long battle to fight on behalf of Saibaba, do you have anything to say?
The government has been putting relentless pressure on my family for the last four years by raiding my house in Delhi. I appeal to democrats, people’s organisations, intellectuals, students to condemn the undemocratic character of the government.