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10 May 2014

PUDR condemns the abduction and arrest of G.N. Saibaba by men in mufti in broad daylight, on 9th afternoon. Dr. Saibaba, an Assistant Professor of English in Ram Lal Anand College was returning home around 1 p.m. after participating in the University’s examination evaluation work in North Campus when his car was stopped and he was blindfolded and whisked away by plain clothed personnel of the Maharashtra Police. According to latest reports, he has been taken to Nagpur already. 

In a blatant lie, DIG (Gadchiroli), Ravindra Kadam, said to the media that Dr. Saibaba was arrested in the morning. In total violation of procedures, the plain clothed men who abducted Dr. Saibaba gave no copy of the arrest warrant to his wife and instead informed her anonymously over phone. It must be remembered that Dr. Saibaba’s residence has already been raided and he was questioned four times in the past six months in connection with his alleged links with Maoists. It must also be remembered that Dr. Saibaba suffers from 90% disability and is confined to the use of a wheelchair. 

Dr. Saibaba is presently arrested in the case in which Prashant Rahi and Hemant Mishra have earlier been arrested. This case is registered at the Aheri police station in Gadchiroli district (FIR No. 3017/2013) under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). PUDR has documented and highlighted numerous instances of gross violations of individual rights that are endemic to the operation of laws such as the UAPA. At the societal level, the UAPA permits banning of political opinion as per the whims of the governments in power. This in turn becomes the basis to target the individual or the group that the governments perceive as undesirable and to hit them with legislated violence. The doors to justice and judicial remedy become so highly restricted that those targeted languish in jails for years on end.

In the present case too, the entire charge against those accused rests on the vagueness of the UAPA provisions and the arbitrary power to impose ban on political organisations. Prashant Rahi and Hemant Mishra already arrested in this case have been charged under UAPA sections 13 (unlawful activity), 18 (conspiracy in terrorist acts), 20 (member of terrorist gang), 38 (membership of terrorist organization) and 39 (support given to terrorist organization). The reason why the UAPA is deployed is that the accusations brought forth would not stand ground if the same were made under the normal laws of the land with normal procedures and normal rules of evidence.

The enhanced punishments under the UAPA and the carefully crafted jingoism of terrorism on the one hand conceals the socio-economic and political reality faced by those whose live on the margins of prosperous India. On the other hand, it helps to perpetuate a helpless sense of fear in people at large from an imagined ruthless and inhuman enemy. This then permits a willing public ready to deny the basic rights to large sections in exchange for imagined safety and security.

The shocking reality of the world of UAPA yet continues to haunt us. It appears again and again as a misuse here, an injustice there and yet another... The way out of this labyrinth is to reject this law that attempts to redesign our democracy in its own authoritarian shape.

We therefore demand that the UAPA provisions being used to incarcerate Dr. G.N. Saibaba be removed forthwith. There is no reasonable defence available with the police to keep Dr. Saibaba in custody: he has been available for and has cooperated with police investigation whenever such need has arisen in the past, he is confined to a wheelchair with very limited mobility. These are pressing reasons that he be released from custody. 

PUDR appeals once again to all citizens to grasp the rapid corrosion to democratic norms and institutions being caused by the continued use of UAPA, to oppose every application of UAPA and to demand is total repeal.

D. Manjit and Asish Gupta