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Released from Nagpur jail after a decade, Saibaba says ‘it’s a miracle to be alive’

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NAGPUR: The imposing blue and yellow gate of Nagpur Central Jail opened on Thursday morning to let out former Delhi University professor

GN Saibaba

in a wheelchair, straight into the waiting arms of his wife Vasantha Kumari after almost a

decade

of

incarceration

that he said was so traumatic, “it’s a miracle to be alive”.
Saibaba, whose release came two days after he and five others charged under UAPA with aiding Maoists and waging war against the state were acquitted a second time, said seeing his cellmate and co-accused Pandu Narote die two years ago left him shaken.

The 54-year-old alleged that being denied

medical treatment

in prison wracked his health, as it did Narote’s, whom he described as a “young, healthy tribal” who died of “a simple fever”.
“When I went to prison, I had no ailments other than my disability. Now, my heart is only 55% functional, and I am facing muscular complications. My liver, gallbladder and pancreas have also been affected. My right hand is partially functional. My doctor says I need multiple surgeries,” he told reporters.

Lawyer Nihal Singh Rathod stood by his side as Saibaba insisted he was a rights activist who had been victimised by state. The ex-professor said he only did a piece of documentation on tribal rights at the behest of fellow ‘activists’ — late Delhi HC judge Rajindar Sachar, Swami Agnivesh, then IAS officer B D Sharma, and then DU professor Randhir Singh. “They wanted me to coordinate with civil rights groups, while govt in power told me to stop my work. This became the basis of my arrest.”

Saibaba recounted how govt ran a “salwa judum” and Operation Green Hunt, affecting tribals whose land had allegedly been usurped for mining projects.
The professor denied knowing Narote before his jail stint. He also expressed solidarity with lawyer Surendra Gadling, an accused in Bhima Koregaon violence case, now lodged in Pune jail. Saibaba said Gadling was paying the price for defending him in court. “He was threatened with a long prison term for fighting my case.”
On whether he will continue activism, Saibaba said it is every citizen’s duty to stand up for rights. He said despite his health, he wants to make up for lost time. “I was arrested at peak of my career. Will I get back the 10 years I lost?”

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