There is all-pervasive oppression… .Preetha Nair interviews Prof. G N Saibaba
There is an all-pervasive oppression by the ruling class and we are confronting a bizarre reality now, said G. N. Saibaba, the Delhi University professor who was released on bail last week by a Supreme Court order on health grounds.
The 90 percent-disabled professor, who was arrested by the Maharashtra police in May 2014 for alleged links with Maoists, also said that those who raise questions against the ruling classes or fight for Adivasi rights are being projected as anti-nationals and put behind bars.
“We are not free to speak our mind in the present context and there is an all-pervasive kind of oppression. The threatening atmosphere is all around us and that’s the indication of fascism. All kinds of freedom are being restricted,” told Saibaba.
Though the wheelchair-bound professor was given bail by the Bombay High Court in June 2015, the Nagpur bench cancelled the bail in December .
Alleging that the conditions in the prison this time were harsher, Saibaba said the jail authorities had imposed strict regulations on the orders of the Maharashtra government. “Considering my deteriorating health, I wasn’t even taken once to a hospital. I was denied life saving drugs and during winter, not more than one blanket was allowed,” said Saibaba, who was kept in an cell meant for terrorists and Maoist rebels.
The Supreme Court, while giving bail to Saibaba, had pulled up the Maharashtra government for keeping him in jail for long. “The government counsel even argued that I might go underground or Maoist might take me away. It’ s a cruel joke,” he added.
Commenting on the Jawaharlal Nehru University row, Saibaba said that it’s a manifestation of the current regime’s anxiety on the growing awareness among students. “Teachers and students have raised some fundamental issues associated with most marginalised communities like dalits and adivasis. Whether its JNU, University of Hyderabad, NIT Srinagar or IIT Madras, these movements have a common thread,” he said adding that reservation had helped dalit students to join campuses and raise their voice against oppression.
Wading into the controversy over JNU students allegedly chanting slogans in favour of Pakistan, Saibaba said, “the students have no reasons to raise the slogan Pakistan Zindabad. Both countries are in the same boat and both are selling people’s labour, resources to imperialist forces,” he noted.
Denying any role in the JNU incident, he said that he had met student leader Kanhaiya Kumar only at some public meetings.”The Nagpur police even planted some stories in the press that I have organised the JNU event,” he said.
The professor, who has been teaching for 25 years, also felt that there is no legal definition for an anti-national and it’s a ploy to divert attention from the real issues. “No law in the country has defined an anti-national. There is a law for anti-state activities and sedition laws talk about anti-state (issues),” said Saibaba, adding that controversy on chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ is a non-issue. “These are artificially created issues which take away the space for real debates. It’s a bizarre reality we confront now,” he added.
He also felt that patriotism is preached by the ruling class which “mortgages the sovereignty of the country to imperialist” forces. “We don’t address patriotism when the ruling classes open the gates to imperialist countries to loot our natural resources. They are conducting genocide on adivasis, destroying the environment, giving away natural resources to the corporate houses in the name of foreign investment,” he alleged.
The students have given a wider meaning to the slogan azadi, he said. “Azadi is a symbolic slogan. It has acquired a wider meaning, and the students have highlighted each and every form of oppression, which has to be addressed separately and together.”
Flaying the fee hike in IITs, the professor said it was an attempt by the government to restrict the entry of students from marginalised sections to educational institutions.
Though health is his first priority now, Saibaba said that he will join back teaching soon.”As per the court order, I can join back teaching though the case is hanging on my head,” he said. The police allege that Saibaba was a CPI-Maoist worker, a charge that he denies. “It’s a fabricated case against me. And the truth will come out soon,” he says.