Gurpreet Singh: Jailed Indian academic G.N. Saibaba wins support from human rights activists in Canada

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      There are growing concerns in Canada for a Delhi University professor who is locked up in an Indian jail despite being ninety percent disabled below the waist.

      The World Sikh Organization issued a statement on April 25 saying G.N. Saibaba "continues to face serious health issues while being held in Nagpur Central Jail in Delhi".

      On April 30, the Alliance Against Displacement organized an event in the B.R. Ambedkar room at the Surrey Central Library.

      After learning about Saibaba's life sentence, its volunteers held up "FREE SAIBABA" signs.

      Incidentally, Ambedkar was a towering social justice activist of India, who dedicated his entire life to the empowerment of oppressed classes.

      The organizers at the Surrey event included antipoverty activists Dave Diewert and Ivan Drury. Among the participants were members of visible minority groups who shared their experiences of racial profiling and police high-handedness.

      Not long ago, seniors with disabilities at Progressive Intercultural Community Services in Surrey also did the same by posing with “FREE SAIBABA” signs before the camera.

      Saibaba was given a life sentence last year after advocating for the rights of oppressed and Indigenous communities in India.

      He was charged with being a supporter of Maoist insurgents active in the tribal areas

      May 9 marked the fourth anniversary of his arrest.

      In the past G.N. Saibaba has harshly criticized the Indian government for its treatment of some of India's poorest residents and for allowing corporations to wreak havoc on their land.
      Gurpreet Singh

      Though he was released on bail on health grounds during the summer of 2015, he was rearrested after his bail was revoked and thrown into jail under inhumane conditions.

      Saibaba has mobilized public opinion against growing state repression of the Indigenous peoples, who are being displaced from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government.

      This, in turn, has led many to join the Maoist movement.

      Saibaba's family and friends believe that he has been framed to silence any voice of dissent from civil society. They apprehend danger to his life as he has multiple health issues.

      The earlier WSO statement expressed concerns over Saibaba's deteriorating health condition. As one of the largest Sikh advocacy groups in Canada, the WSO has been raising issues about political prisoners in India in the past.

      Likewise, Khalra Mission, a human rights group established in memory of Jaswant Singh Khalra, a Sikh activist who was kidnapped and murdered by the Indian police in 1995, has also expressed its support for Saibaba.

      The slain activist’s son, Janmeet Singh Khalra, lives in Calgary and has been raising the issue of Saibaba through social media.

      A petition asking for the release of Saibaba on compassionate grounds has received 1,000 signatures in Canada.

      Most of these signatures were collected during the Vaisakhi parades in Vancouver and Surrey last year.

      Members of the Sikh community enthusiastically signed the petition, which was launched by Radical Desi, and later submitted to two MPs: Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal and New Democrat Peter Julian.

      NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger have also issued statements in support of Saibaba.

      Within the academic circles, Kwantlen Polytechnic University sociologist Seema Ahluwalia and UBC Asian Studies associate professor Anne Murphy have also helped in raising awareness about Saibaba.

      Among the groups that have been consistently raising the issue of Saibaba in Vancouver are the International League of People’s Struggles, the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, the East Indian Defence Committee, and the Indian Rationalist Society, besides individual support from the members of other organizations, such as Sikh Nation, Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara, Sukh Sagar Gurdwara, Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver, Shaheed Bhai Mewa Singh Society, and Chetna Association.

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India BombingsHe has a Facebook page called We Are All Untouchables!!! 

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