A Synopsis and an Appeal
Harsh sentences have been given to intellectuals, activists, and free thinkers of India in recent years. India’s current Hindu religious government terms any question of its policies a crime. It is meanwhile blind to the crisis in the economy, climate, and inequity that faces the nation.
The reach of prison extends well before the arrest.
In the name of searching for stolen property, Professor Saibaba’s house was raided by 50 member police who took away the professor’s laptop, disks, pen drives.
“Suddenly, a police posse descends down on your residence and ransacks your house without showing any warrant. … Suddenly, you find your world turned topsy-turvy. Your job went, a family losing the house, media defaming you about which you cannot do a damn thing. “ (Anand Teltumbde, Professor of Management, advocate for Dalit rights, sentenced to life imprisonment )
“350 inmates crowded into six classrooms… to share the room with 35 other inmates … 3 toilets, 7 urinals, … apart from the fear of Covid-19, inmates are prone to skin infections too. ( Gautam Navlakha, human rights activist, accused of “sympathy for Maoists”, of his pre-jail quarantine facility )
“With just one attached toilet, 125-150 inmates, the smell of their sweat and urine mixed with unbearable heat due to electricity cuts makes life hell over here: A living hell indeed … Usually, the entire night is spent sitting, waiting for the morning.” ( Dr. Kafeel Khan, physician, criticized the government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. )
Why this cruelty?
Over 130 intellectuals appealed to President of India and the Chief Justice of India for the release of professor G.N. Saibaba and activist Varavara Rao. Professor G.N. Saibaba, 90% physically handicapped, has been in solitary confinement since his conviction on March 7, 2017
Professor Saibaba lies in jail, frequently falling in and out of consciousness and unable to even go to the toilet without assistance, which he is routinely denied. We are deeply disturbed by the cruelty with which the Indian government and the judicial system are treating Saibaba.
The politics of repression.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party rule has led to the increasing marginalization of religious minorities. Dual citizenship laws whereby Muslims face the prospect of being made stateless, as well as centuries of discrimination against lower caste people, have made India a dangerous place for free-thinkers, intellectuals, and activists.
Since the new Citizenship Acts of 2019, peaceful protesters have been charged with sedition, targeted with violence, and subjected to arrests. Arrests have specifically targeted local Muslim student leaders and protestors, including twenty-seven-year-old student leader Safoora Zargar, who is currently pregnant.
Arrested. Locked up. Forgotten?
The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia joins in solidarity with all organizations and individuals in condemnation of the repression of intellectuals and activists by the Government of India. We will not forget the imprisoned or what they have given up their liberty for. We believe that society is poisoned when brute force stifles thought.
We appeal to all thinking people to examine the arrests, to look at the injustices confronted by the victims, to examine the ideology of caste and racism encouraged by those in power, and to decide which side of the prison walls the true perpetrators of crimes against the people reside.