On June 9th, the International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India) initiated a petition to the Chief Justice of India calling for the release of Professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba due to concerns over his worsening health and well-being that have been exacerbated by the prison system’s failure to provide appropriate treatment of his medical conditions.
Professor Saibaba is a scholar of English literature, who was formerly employed at Delhi University. As a prominent activist for democratic rights and oppressed groups in India, he was sentenced to life in prison on March 7, 2017, for his alleged connections with the banned Communist Party of India. According to Scholars at Risk, his trial was “replete with procedural violations,” which included a lack of credible evidence, illegal searches, and recanted testimonies. The unjust detention and sentencing have been described as “retaliation for his nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association,” liberties which are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party.
He has spent the last five years in the maximum security Anda Cell in the Nagpur Central Prison in the State of Maharashtra, known for its excruciating conditions. Professor Saibaba is 90% physically disabled and suffers from 19 chronic and acute medical conditions, several of which are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. According to InSAF India, especially after his hunger strike in May, Professor Saibaba’s health continues to deteriorate due to “neglect and proper care,” having contracted COVID-19 twice and developed life-threatening acute pancreatitis and painful gallstones.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) endorses InSAF India’s petition in support of Professor Saibaba’s release and calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to sign on to their call to action on behalf of Professor Saibaba. We remain deeply concerned for Professor Saibaba’s well-being and that of other wrongly detained academics who advocate for the social rights and liberties of oppressed groups. We at ESW urge the Indian authorities to implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties, and to administer adequate medical care and drop any charges against Professor Saibaba that are in violation of his rights to free expression and association. The petition continues to be circulated by Freedom Now, PEN International, and Scholars at Risk, along with a multitude of other organizations. InSAF India’s Petition is linked here.