“The way they conducted my arrest, they did not follow any legal procedures,” says GN Saibaba in the video above, recounting the chilling details of his arrest. “The only proof they have is the alleged letter,” he continues. “Very ridiculous kinds of things they built into the case. Why can’t I meet them, why can’t I write to them? How does it amount to sedition?”
In April 2016, the Supreme Court granted bail to the former Delhi University professor, who was arrested in May 2015 for alleged links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) outfit. In July of that year, journalist Geeta Seshu and filmmaker Saurabh Kumar interviewed the wheelchair-bound academic.
On Tuesday, a chilling 827-page judgment delivered by a sessions court in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, sentenced the professor and four others to life imprisonment. Ever since he was arrested, numerous activists, journalists, students and academics have suggested that the case against Saibaba is being used to muzzle dissent.
This is exactly the point Saibaba, who is 90% disabled, raises in the interview. Referring to comments made by his interviewers while he was in prison, Saibaba sys: “Everybody knows, including the police, that these charges don’t exist. They want to silence the voices. ‘We know your case will not stand but our objective was to keep you behind bars as long as possible.’”
He also points out how the government’s attempt to silence his criticism at their treatment of the adivasis was not successful. Saibaba says in the video that more attention is being drawn to his work now. “Many officials told me that the Indian government’s image was tarnished,” he said, going on to add that at international forums the officials are being asked about the mistreatment of adivasis.
He also went on to talk about a disturbing trend in the government’s activities: “Increasingly, terrorist activities are the acts of having alternative ideas other than what the governments or ruling parties have.”
Saibaba and his family are ready to fight the verdict but the professor has difficult times ahead. In the video, he also recounts what gave him strength during his incarceration. He spoke about meeting young adivasi men who were arrested along with him, who knew nothing of the courts and laws, and yet “did not lose their sanity”.
“Their courage in the face of adversity gave me the will to live,” he said.