Somewhere on the walls of North Campus, there is written “Free Professor Saibaba.” The readings on the wall are clear, but are you paying attention? This Teachers’ Day, lets be criminals together.
On the afternoon of 9th May 2014, G.N. Saibaba, an English Professor at Ram Lal Anand College, was heading back home from the university when a group of policemen in plain clothes arrested him. His family was not informed about his arrest and this prompted his wife to file a missing persons report. The 90% disabled professor was charged under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) for his alleged Maoist links. The charges against him rested on letters, pamphlets, books, and videos seized during raids that were conducted in his house. After active efforts by his lawyers and public pressure, he was given unconditional bail from the Supreme Court in April 2016 on health grounds, however, he wasn’t reinstated at the college.
The case against Prof. Saibaba should not be seen in isolation. Nandini Sundar, a Delhi University professor and an internationally acclaimed academician, who has been working with Adivasi population in Chattisgarh for years now was booked for the murder of a tribal man in November 2016. The case was later struck off after the wife of the deceased said that she had given no names to the police. The page two of this newspaper will tell you that her book Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar, along with Against Ecological Romanticism: Verrier Elwin and the Making of an Anti-modern Tribal Identity by Archana Prasad, can be dropped from the postgraduate curriculum of History after DU’s academic council recommended these readings to be removed for ‘glorifying Naxals’ and ‘legitimising conversion of tribals to Christianity’. Recently, Pune Police arrested five wellknown lawyers, poets, and activists namely: Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, and Arun Ferreira in connection with a probe on the Bhima-Koregaon riots in January, the assassination plot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and having Maoist links. These arrests raised the #UrbanNaxal debate on social media.
The apparent similarity in all these cases is that they all have been accused of being Naxalites since they talked about issues of lesser-known state oppression and there is little or no rationale behind these arrests. Arun Ferreira, a human rights lawyer, was released as innocent after spending five years in prison, and Binayak Sen is out on bail since 2011. Every story is the same when we reported on the updates about G.N. Saibaba’s trail, we heard the same arguments, when we reported on curriculum change the same questions about “Maoist sympathies” were raised. After a while, you figure out the suo-motto method of silencing the questions. Whether or not they are right or wrong you can decide for yourself, but the question is will you care enough to decide? To not ignore, but to acknowledge what the dissenters, and closer to home some of our professors, are trying to say is the least yet somehow, the most one can do.
The students at Delhi School of Journalism, tired after over 30 hours of continuous protest, gave a love letter to their professors, acknowledging their vulnerable position as ad-hocs. This teachers’ day, unless you are too cool to celebrate it all together, don’t reduce the essence of a teacher-student relationship to WhatsApp quotes. You can still give them handmade cards, but you know what’s better? Handmade placards that you can carry in the next Delhi University Teachers’ Association protest, be it against autonomy, unreliable job provisions, or the arrest of another professor. Attending classes is cool but if you join your ad-hoc teachers at the Faculty of Arts next time they host a sit-in against the vile rules of vacancy or permanent recruitment then it will be better. Be a good student and raise hell alongside your professors. Read the study material, pointers on the blackboard, and most importantly go through the readings on the wall.