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

The father of an award-winning young man with hearing disability calls the incarceration of G.N. Saibaba a blot on Indian democracy Featured

 

A Punjab-based journalist and former Information Commissioner has appealed to the Indian government to release a physically challenged scholar from jail on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.  

In no uncertain terms, Chander Parkash from Bathinda said in a live interview with Burnaby-based Spice Radio on December 3, the international day of persons with disabilities, the mistreatment of Professor G.N. Saibaba is both unfortunate and a blot on Indian democracy.  

His son Yashveer Goyal has established himself as a role model for Indian youth in sports and Information Technology, in spite of being born with a hearing disability. He had come to the support of a former Delhi University lecturer, who continues to face inhuman conditions in an Indian jail after being convicted in 2017.  

Saibaba was first arrested on trumped up charges in 2014, for merely speaking out against the repression of religious minorities, and the Adivasis (indigenous communities) being evicted from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government. He was given a life sentence after being branded as a Maoist sympathiser. Notably, the Maoist insurgents are active in the areas inhabited by the Adivasis.    

Even though the United Nations has asked for his release due to his deteriorating health, the government remains adamant. So much so, he was neither even given parole to see his mother on the death bed, nor to attend her last rituals.   

Yashveer was born with a hearing disability in 1999. His father noticed it when his child remained unresponsive to the loud sounds of firecrackers in the neighbourhood on the night of Deewali - the Indian festival of lights. 

However, his undeterred parents brought him up with a lot of care, despite many challenges. Young Yashveer had to face discrimination in school in a conservative society, where ostracization of children with disabilities is very common. His parents made sure that he concentrated on education and extracurricular activities, that helped him to master badminton and chess, besides Information Technology.  

After winning many championships and competitions in these fields, both at the provincial and higher level, Yashveer was given a national award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2019, under the Role Model Hearing Impairments (Male) category. 

Yashveer had asked the Prime Minister of India to make arrangements for the release of wheelchair bound Saibaba.  

Since the outbreak of COVID 19, the vulnerability of inmates like Saibaba, locked up in overcrowded Indian jails, has grown.       

Yashveer had written on his Facebook page, “As I am a special child with absolute hearing impairment so I know the life of specially disabled persons. I have come to know about the plight of Saibaba, facing hellish conditions in jail and also under danger due to Covid-19”. 

Reiterating similar views on his son’s behalf who cannot speak, Chander Parkash told Spice Radio that natural justice demands that Saibaba must be released. He added that whatever may be the political ideology of Saibaba, his condition does not allow him to stay in jail anymore. He added that he and his family are ready to face any consequences for defending the human rights of someone who deserves sympathy. 

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