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KAMAL MITRA CHENOY | 5 APRIL, 2016

Supreme Court Releases Saibaba on Bail, What About Kobad Ghandy Now?


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court judgement by a bench headed by Justice J.S. Kehar, exposed the propensity of state governments, in this case Maharashtra, to harass "anti-nationals," in this case Maoists as much as possible, irrespective of the law.

The apex court in its stinging comments rejected the plaint to deny Prof. Saibaba bail, and pulled up the Maharashtra government for being "extremely unfair to him (Saibaba)...especially knowing his medical conditions. Why do you want him in jail if key witnesses have been examined? You are unnecessarily harassing the petitioner."

It rejected the state governments plea that Prof. Saibaba would propagate Maoist views if set free. "How do you know what he will be doing when he goes out? You cannot say he will do this or do that." Prof. Saibaba, a wheelchair bound teacher arrested from the Delhi university campus, was lodged in Nagpur jail since May 2014.. The court said that his release would be subjected to conditions laid down by the trial court as he would make himself available as and when he required.

Tragically, not all such cases have a good ending. Kobad Ghandy, a Maoist ideologue was arrested years ago in Delhi, where he was seeking medical treatment. His cases have dragged on and on, while his health has deteriorated.

Ghandy, who comes from a Mumbai based wealthy Parsi family, was never a militant but an ideologue. He lost his wife Anuradha Ghandy due to lack of medication. His trial in Delhi is moving slowly. He cannot face trial in Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, as the Union government has insisted that he can be tried outside Delhi only after the Delhi judicial proceedings are over. He has written to the Doon School alumni that he is dying. Surely here there had been even less justice than in Nagpur. Can't the Supreme Court be moved?

The Citizen Bureau adds: Prof. Saibaba was given a three month bail last year by the Mumbai High Court for health reasons, as he is suffering from several ailments and his health was deteriorating in prison. He started his activism as a pro-reservations activist in the 1990s, and moved from this into campaigning against the Andhra Pradesh police for the “encounter deaths” of tribals and Naxalites. He told The Hindu in an interview last year that most of his peers had been assassinated by unknown persons. ““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.”

He moved to Delhi in the 2000’s and continued the human rights campaign. As he said in the interview, “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. I gathered enough evidence that suggested the ruling class wanted access to their resources no matter what. So the Operation Green Hunt was launched (by the Congress led UPA government at the time) to kill, maim and dislodge these people.”

“ 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.”

Kobad Ghandy is now very ill, and as he has written to friends outside, he thinks he is dying. From a wealthy background, educated as abroad, he returned from London to plunge himself into work with the slum dwellers. He met and married Anuradha Shanbag, also from a similar background, in 1983 and the two were soon involved in working with the tribals and Adivasis with Ghandy becoming a member of the Maoists Peoples Wars Group from which he was expelled in 1987. His wife died of malaria in 2008. Ghandy was arrested from Bhikaji Cam Place in New Delhi in 2009 with his lawyers saying at the time that he had been arrested and “tortured” for four days before the arrest was shown as official. Ghandy was given bail for a few weeks last month for treatment but has had a particularly rough time in jail. He wrote to the National Human Rights Commission in 2011. And in 2015 went on indefinite hunger strike with the following statement:

“I am 68 years and I have spent five and a half years in Tihar with the Delhi case nearing completion. Though routine (3 to 5 months) transfers of High Risk Ward prisoners have been going on for 4 years, I was subjected to this only from August '14. This is the third time in 9 months. Earlier, jail transfers were done only as a form of punishment.

I have a heart problem, B.P., slip disc, arthritis, spondylitis, kidney, and numerous other health problems – all of which are increasing specifically after August '14.

While transferring we have to carry our bags ourselves (some 10-15 kg) go through set of detailed searches of all items, made to hang around at the jail gates for 4-5 hours waiting for the transport, packed like sardines with baggage into a single van and taken to the new jail gate.

In the two more detailed searches, again to carry all items ourselves to the ward etc. One has to go through mulaaza (medical check) done for a new entrant. Then a scramble for cells, with the later arrivals getting the worst. Then at least 2-3 days goes in cleaning the filthy cell and arranging the baggage (no help given).

In the new jail all medical treatment gets interrupted, medical diet and other permissions have to be applied anew as also the bed and western toilet. This can take from a few days to months. Also, the Vodaphone facility has to be started anew. Barely has one settled in, and adjusted with the new lot of criminals (some of whom can be pretty nasty) when the next transfer comes and the whole process repeated.

The May 30th transfer [was] done in the midst of examination for a heart problem at the GB Pant Hospital.

Since the 2012 High Court order to Tihar to take better care of Senior Citizens (above 65), I have been applying to be put in the Senior Citizens' ward, or given similar facilities in the High Risk ward – but to no avail. On the contrary, while at first they never transferred me, they resorted to this since Aug '14, obviously as a method of harassment and to destroy my health.

As all the appeals, on both humanitarian and legal grounds have been ignored, I, as a last resort, have had to go on an indefinite hunger strike since the last transfer on May 30th.”

Kobad Ghandy
Tihar Jail 8/9
High Risk Ward (Ward 5)

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