Dr. G.N. Saibaba, who was sentenced to life in prison under a terrorism statute for contradictory opinions with the government of India, has been sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Saibaba is wheelchair-bound from a childhood incidence with polio that left him significantly paralyzed. Since he has been in prison his health has continued to deteriorate. Without good medical and follow-up care Dr. Saibaba could have serious consequences resulting from his current conditions. CCS is requesting, for humanitarian reasons, for the government of India to release Dr. Saibaba so that he can get the medical care he needs and then be allowed to recuperate in his home with his family.
Shri Ram Nath Kovind
c/o Shri Kumar Samresh
Public Relations Officer, Museum
New Delhi 110004
Phone: 91 11 2301 5321
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We are writing in regard to Dr. G.N. Saibaba, formerly a wheelchair-bound (from a post-polio paralysis when a youngster) English professor from Delhi University. In mid-September 2013, Dr. Saibaba had just returned home from teaching when a joint task force of local police and the India’s anti-terrorism unit raided his home. Over 40 officers surrounded the home and 7 officers entered. They took some of the professor’s personal items (i.e., cellphone, books, pamphlets, laptops, hard drives, USB sticks containing the professor’s Ph.D. work, three books he was writing, family photo albums, etc.).
In May 2014, as Saibaba was being driven home from work, a van pulled in front of the professor’s car causing it to stop. The professor was transferred to the other vehicle and detained. His wife was notified that he had been arrested and was in the custody of the Maharashtra State Police. He was taken to Nagpur Central Prison where he would spend the next two years as an “undertrial.” He was held in very small cells called “anda” cells, which are reserved for the most notorious criminals and terrorists.
His trial in 2014 took nearly 3 years to complete, after which time he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Over that period, Dr. Saibaba’s health began to seriously deteriorate. At one point his daughter went to visit him and he was unable to lift the handset for the phone so that he could speak with her. The muscles in his arms had deteriorated, his spinal cord had degenerated and his left arm had all but stopped functioning. Doctors also warned that he had developed a heart condition.
In April 2016 Saibaba was granted bail. He spent most of the time during his release in the hospital. On March 6, 2017 he began receiving treatment for gallstones. The doctors had suggested he have them operated on, but the date interfered with his trial date. Saibaba seemed to think, as did his attorney, that the trial was going well and he would be exonerated. He was not.
It was reported that after the trial, Saibaba was not getting medication he needed. He began developing additional ailments aside from the serious ones he had initially. He began fainting, his gallstone surgery was over a year past due. Urinating had become extremely painful and humiliating as he could not, due to his disability, maneuver the use of the commodes.
Since April, Dr. Saibaba has spent considerable time in the hospital – Nagpur Medical College Hospital. They did not provide all of the services he requires and his family was not allowed to visit him. Additionally, he had suffered a permanent injury due to staff that were not familiar with proper procedures in handing a disabled person when removing him from his wheelchair to access the toilet and returning him to the wheelchair thereafter.
Indian law and Commission reports and international agreements, require adequate care be given to prisoners who are ill or disabled to the point that if the proper care cannot be provided by the prison, the medical officer can recommend that a prisoner be accommodated outside the prison if their health is endangered.
Recently, United Nations rights experts asked that Dr. Saibaba be set free. They pointed out that there was not one instance in which Saibaba was a conspirator to commit violence or provide logistical support to violent acts.
We are requesting that, in light of the multiple human rights requirements for prisoners with special needs, he be released immediately and be given access to medical treatment necessary to maintain his health and preserve his dignity.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
H.E. Navtej Sarna
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-939-7000/Fax: 202-265-4351
US Ambassador to India
U.S. Embassy – New Delhi
New Delhi 110021
Phone: 011 91 11 2419 0017
Minister of Home Affairs
17 Akbar Road
New Delhi, India 110001
Fax: 91 11 2301 4184