Activists campaign for the release of Prof GN Saibaba on campus
By Navya Asopa (UG’24)
Five speakers came to the campus to speak against the continued detainment of Prof Saibaba on 2 December. The speakers were from the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) which is a “cluster of 36+ progressive organisations and individuals that actively critique the right-wing state and stand in solidarity with the oppressed.”
Prof. GN Saibaba's continued detainment despite the Bombay High Court’s acquittal order is what inspired CASR to campaign widely and hold public talks for Saibaba’s release. The event was organised by the Democracy Collective.
The formal event was held on the 5th of December at HKS Surjeet Bhawan, Delhi. Their speakers were Prashant Bhushan, Saroj Giri, Sucheta De and Vasantha Kumari, among others. For the purpose of gathering support and an audience for the same, various members of the CASR travelled across university campuses in and around Delhi.
Around 50 students were present in front of the mess lawns by the time the talk began at 7pm. Professor Bittu and the Democracy Collective were involved in organising this event. They distributed pamphlets titled, “Thoughts Criminalised- Story of GN Saibaba and Comrades'' to the students before their talk. Three speakers, namely Badal, Ehtmam and Navneet spoke about the ABVP violence from the week before, GN Saibaba’s legacy, his legal case as well as CASR’s upcoming public meeting.
Badal is a student at the Delhi School of Journalism and a member of Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch. They were attacked by the ABVP on December 1st for distributing pamphlets of Saibaba. “Parcha hi toh baate the (We were only distributing pamphlets).” They then elaborated upon the issues faced by progressive collectives due to ABVP dominance in campus spaces. After getting two stitches they went to file a complaint at the police station. However, the latter did not listen. “The police is part of the state. And they all support the ABVP. The state is inherently capitalist and fascist,” Badal said. They emphasised the need for students to speak up, especially with the inception of ‘an attack on education’ through NEP.
The next speaker was Ehtmam, a graduate from Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. He is a member of the Lawyers Against Atrocities (LAA) and Forum against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM). He focused on the legal aspect of GN Saibaba’s case. “GN Saibaba is a globally renowned academic who spoke for the reservation of oppressed castes. He also strongly opposed the imperialist exploitation of resources and displacement of Adivasis.” Saibaba was sentenced to life-long imprisonment under the UAPA for having connections with the ‘Maoists’. Ehtmam said, “They take away Adivasi land for corporations. This development is for whom? That is what Saibaba was asking. But a 90% disabled professor’s brain is considered more dangerous in this country.” He spoke in detail about his opinion on the failing judiciary, the draconian UAPA and the atrocities Saibaba had to suffer. “This is how the Indian state treats its own people. If the rule of law existed, would the state have the same apathy?” concluded Ehtmam.
The last speaker for the meeting was Navneet, a PhD scholar of Sociology at Delhi University and CASR member. He talked about the deteriorating nature of the politicisation of campus spaces. His motivation to join was facilitated by this political void. He said, “We are fighting for a new society. We are gathering for the cause of free speech, for GN Saibaba. And I hope to see most of you there in solidarity.” Nodeep Kaur, an activist from the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan added, “Ashoka is cut off from other campuses in Delhi, so it takes time for students to react here. But it is easier for students to speak here as there is no ABVP. Hence, you must.”