GN Saibaba's health declines after hunger strike in jail

Saibaba had gone on hunger strike to protest installation of CCTV camera that covered his entire cell including the toilet and bathing area.

Credit : Shubham Patil

Incarcerated former Delhi University professor Dr GN Saibaba’s health has deteriorated after he went on hunger strike from May 21 to 24, against CCTV surveillance of the entre anda cell. However, Saibaba’s wife AS Vasantha Kumari told Indie Journal that despite his bad health, he was not admitted to a hospital, but taken back to his anda cell, after a visit to the prison doctor.

“From the third day of hunger strike blood motions were started and continuing to date. The blood is spilling all over the bed and helpers are changing and cleaning the bedsheets. The skin of Dr. G.N. Saibaba has become loosened and coming out of the muscles” says the press statement issued by the Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr GN Saibaba.

Saibaba (55) had intimated on May 14 that will go on an indefinite hunger strike in protest of the installation of a CCTV camera in the cell, which he said was covering the footage of his toilet and bathing areas, violating his right to privacy, life, liberty and bodily integrity. 

“When we got to know about this, my brother-in-law G Ramadevudu and I wrote to the Maharashtra Home Minister seeking immediate removal of the CCTV camera. We knew that his condition would deteriorate if he were to go on a hunger strike. We were later told that the camera has been taken out of the cell. However, what we were not informed of was that the camera was placed right outside the cell and still covered the entirety of the cell. It was just yesterday that our lawyer was informed and then we got to know that Saibaba went ahead with the hunger strike and his health is in a dire condition,” Vasantha Kumari said.

The jail authorities assured to change the direction of the CCTV camera four days into the strike, as informed by his lawyer Akash Sorde. However, Saibaba had begun to suffer serious health problems from the third day of the strike itself.

“The 24x7 CCTV surveillance of Saibaba’s cell is the invasion of his right to privacy. It is humiliating and inhuman. Saibaba is wheelchair-bound. His left hand is paralysed. The infection had spread to his right hand as well, which is now only working partially. He can barely eat with a spoon or write with his hand. He needs assistance for almost all basic tasks. What threat is he going to pose to anybody? Vasantha Kumari questioned.

As far as the assurance by the jail authorities is concerned, she said, “Saibaba had gone on a hunger strike once before in 2020, in the first year of COVID pandemic, demanding basic amenities for him and other inmates. The authorities had made several assurances then as well, which are yet to be fulfilled.”

Saibaba is physically 90 percent disabled. He has 19 different ailments and comorbidities including heart and kidney issues, a brain cyst, gall stones. He has been infected with Coronavirus twice.

“He is in constant pain because of his arms, his back, which give him sleepless nights even after taking painkillers, or sometimes sleeping pills on doctor’s advice. He has fallen unconscious in his cell a few times, after which he is taken to the government hospital, only to be brought back to the anda cell. They have time and again denied giving him his We have asked for parole so many times, we have asked for his transfer to his home state Telangana, but every time our appeals are rejected,” Vasantha Kumari said.

She also said that it is almost impossible to get details from the jail, as the jail authorities do not cooperate or connect calls on time. “Jail is supposed to be a reformative centre. But here in India, jails are torture cells. Jail authorities have a cruel, inhuman, violent attitude towards prisoners,” Vasantha Kumari said.

The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr GN Saibaba has demanded the removal of CCTV camera’s focus on Saibaba’s Anda Cell along with granting of parole to enable him to get proper medical treatment for all his health issues. The committee has also demanded prison transfer from Nagpur Central Prison to Cherlapally Central Prison, Hyderabad.