A letter asking Canada’s Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, to intervene for the release of disabled social justice activist, Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, who has been convicted for life in India for his alleged links with Maoists under the draconian anti-terror law – Unlawful Prevention of Atrocities Act (UAPA) – was submitted at her constituency office on Tuesday.
Signed by 100 people, the letter asks Canada to pressure the Indian government to free Saibaba, who is wheelchair-bound and 90 percent disabled. He was paralysed from the waist downwards after contracting polio in his childhood.
The letter says that he was arrested for standing up for the rights of the oppressed communities, including Adivasis (Indigenous peoples) and religious minorities.
Saibaba was first arrested in 2014 and incarcerated under inhuman conditions sparking protests across the world. Demonstrations were also held in Greater Vancouver.
Though Saibaba got bail on medical grounds, he has now been convicted after being branded as a Maoist supporter. The letter says that his only fault is that he has been raising his voice against the repression of the Adivasis, who are being evicted from their traditional lands by the extraction industry in connivance with the state authorities. Often the security forces and the state-sponsored vigilantes target Adivasis in the areas under the influence of Maoist insurgents in the name of war on terror. By punishing Saibaba the Indian state is clearly trying to suppress a voice of dissent, the letter says.
The letter submitted by representatives of Radical Desi states: “We register our strongest condemnation of the sentence and urge the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India to release him and all other political prisoners on bail immediately; conduct a fair trial and thoroughly investigate the case in which all these people have been unlawfully framed. We also urge the Canadian government to intervene on behalf of concerned Indians abroad.
“Since you have been known for advocacy for the human rights and the rights of the persons with disabilities we humbly request you to take a lead and use your good offices to make Canadian authorities intervene to ensure immediate release of Saibaba on compassionate grounds and protection of his freedom of expression.”