"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Oh Canada, please raise your voice for Saibaba for the sake of Terry Fox Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh   

On the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, Canada will do a huge service by speaking out for a disabled scholar incarcerated in an Indian jail for merely advocating for the rights of poor and marginalized people.  

This is the occasion when we remember our hero Terry Fox, who started a marathon to raise funds for cancer research after losing his right leg to the disease. After having covered more than 5,000 kilometers with the help of an artificial leg, he had to stop on September 1, 1980 when the cancer spread to his lungs.  

A resident of Port Coquitlam, he died in 1981.  

Fox remains popular worldwide. Annual runs in his memory are also held in India, where the Terry Fox India Committee raises funds for cancer treatment.  

As a fitting tribute to Fox who stood up for others, Canada needs to step in to get Professor G.N. Saibaba released.    

The former Delhi University lecturer is locked up in spite of being ninety percent disabled below the waist. 

Wheelchair-bound Saibaba is serving a life sentence under brutal conditions, after being convicted for being a supporter of Maoist insurgents active in the tribal areas 

He had mobilized public opinion against growing state repression of Adivasis or the Indigenous peoples, who are being displaced from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government. Blinded by capital greed, the resource industries are eyeing these mineral rich lands and taking them into their possession without informed consent.  

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. 

A petition asking for the release of Saibaba has received more than 1,000 signatures in Canada. Though it was submitted to two MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian, the Canadian government has chosen to remain neutral. 

New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh and former B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger also issued statements in support of Saibaba. 

Even though UN human-rights experts have urged his immediate release, Indian authorities continue to oppose any attempt to bail him out.  This is despite concerns about his deteriorating health, particularly in the midst of the growing threat of COVID-19 in overcrowded Indian jails. 

Recently, the Indian authorities refused to release him to attend the last rites of his mother who died of cancer. Earlier, his lawyer unsuccessfully tried to get him released to see her on her death bed. Even the lawyer's attempt to get Saibaba to see her through video-conferencing was refused.    

Canada, which claims to be a global human rights leader, has an obligation to tell India loudly and clearly to release Saibaba on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Considering the growing support he is receiving coast to coast, Canada must recognize the urgency of the issue without any delay.  

 

 

 

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Last modified on Friday, 11 September 2020 02:34
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