We have been witness to the innumerable instances of injustices meted out to scores of Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, alleged Maoists, Kashmiri Muslims etc, in the Indian subcontinent by the Indian state under the garb of fighting terror. The case no. 13/2014 and no. 130/2015 in the Gadchiroli sessions court is a similar instance in that. The remarkably striking contrast, if one can so, is the unabashedly unapologetic intent of the judge as he minces no words when he says that his hands are tied that he could only give life imprisonment to all but one of the accused (Saibaba, Hem, Prashant, Mahesh and Pandu). The remaining one of the six accused, Vijay Tirki was spared with 10 years rigorous imprisonment.
That the learned judge has taken more than 800 pages to convince himself to be within the limits of law (as claimed by his lordship) to finally sentence all but one for life is testimony to the growing impatience of the powers that be with whatever little scrutiny that a court of law can do in India. The judge assures himself while dispensing the sentence that Saibaba a 90-percent disabled wheel- chair bound professor of Delhi University is “mentally fit” to deny him even his basic rights as a differently abled in harsh/worst conditions of prisons in India. This judgement stands out from all the previous ones in one respect. That it is meant to intimidate the educated, opinionated sections of the society who are conscientious about the greater well being of all the people irrespective of their class, caste, region, religion, color or language. The judgement echoes the open threats that have been issued by notorious police officers of Central India (especially Chhattisgarh) that their new strategy is to declare war on the “white collared Naxals” sitting in the urban centres. The term “white collared naxals” is a euphemism for anyone who is willing to talk against the state in general and specifically of the mounting atrocities on the adivasis of Central and East India under the garb of ‘development’. It is the crystallization of the
￼concerns of the big business houses in India that such intellectuals /individuals /citizens and their right to opinion / association / organize have become a bane to the development prospects of India. Thus whosoever talks for the well being and dignified existence of the most deprived in India, for their democratic self-propagation/ reproduction have become anathema to the logic of development that is being pushed by the state violating all constitutional guarantees and every law in the rule book. Hence we have a ‘helpless’ judge tied by the law condemned to be content to give such intellectuals and their supporters only life imprisonment and not the noose! It is unprecedented that his lordship is apologetic about the fact that he can’t send these intellectuals and their supporters to the gallows!
In what follows in the main body of this release is a detailed analysis of how such a twisted logic—of putting ideology of a penal, authoritarian state before the law—in favour of neo-liberal polices take shape to such ridiculous extent that the judge abdicates his role to be usurped by the executive without impunity. We have an unending chain of actions from the lawless police that gets the green signal from the judge who is ready to forsake the principles of jurisprudence in his commitment to uphold acts of impunity so that the ideology of the present logic of violence of the state—in form and content, through institutions and policies, through its implementation and enforcement—gets reproduced.
The struggle for the release of Saibaba, Hem, Prashant, Mahesh, Pandu and Vijay thus is not just a struggle for their rights—to opinion, associate, agitate, organise—but also our own rights to name and confront the world we inhabit and to rebuild/re-imagine it in a way that makes living beautiful and in that sense worthwhile and meaningful for the vast humanity. The struggle is to reclaim our humanity.
The committee thanks the human rights lawyers who have given their time to realise this critique.