GN Saibaba threatens to launch hunger strike in Nagpur jail amid privacy row

When contacted, Nagpur Central Jail Superintendent Anup Kumre on Sunday said the cameras were installed to keep a watch on prisoners lodged in all the 'Anda' (oval-shaped) cells.
Prof GN Saibaba. (File Photo)
Prof GN Saibaba. (File Photo)

NAGPUR: Former Delhi University (DU) professor G N Saibaba, serving a life sentence for Maoist links in Nagpur, has threatened to launch an indefinite fast inside his jail cell if a CCTV camera which allegedly captures footage of the toilet and bathing area is not removed, his family members said and alleged that authorities refused a water bottle to him.

They also claimed that jail authorities purposely placed a steel thermos beside Saibaba's cot which he cannot lift due to his medical condition, as a result of which he doesn't have a bottle to drink water frequently in the extreme heat.

Saibaba's wife Vasantha Kumari and his brother G. Ramadevudu wrote to the Maharashtra home minister on May 14 requesting him to intervene in the matter and provide Saibaba "privacy and dignity".

When contacted, Nagpur Central Jail Superintendent Anup Kumre on Sunday said the cameras were installed to keep a watch on prisoners lodged in all the 'Anda' (oval-shaped) cells.

"The installation was done only for the administration and security purposes," he said.

As per the letter, the wide-angle CCTV cameras were put in front of the small cell on May 10 which can capture video of the entire cell including the toilet seat, bathing place and everything in the small cell.

"So, he cannot use the toilet for urinals or cannot even take a bath before the camera, as the camera records video of everything 24X7 hours. Now how can Dr G. N. Saibaba live in these circumstances?" the letter questioned.

Saibaba's kin alleged that the installation of the camera was aimed at "intimidating and insulting" him and violating his privacy.

"His right to privacy, life and liberty is at risk because he cannot use the toilet, take bath, or change clothes in front of a camera that's not only running 24 hours but also recording everything and watched constantly in the office of the Jail superintendent," they claimed.

"Why a 90% disabled person is targeted like this? Did he violate any prison rule in the past five years?" the family questioned and alleged that this was only to torture and harass him.

This 24-hour camera surveillance is a clear violation of our fundamental right to privacy, life, and liberty.

It is intimidation, insult, and violation of his bodily integrity.

Prisoners convicted or otherwise are entitled to all constitutional rights except the right to mobility and a few others, it further stated.

"Under these strain conditions, he has decided to go on a hunger strike indefinitely till death or the camera is removed, and the responsible prison administrators apologize for knowingly and brutally violating natural body rights and the rights provided by the constitution," the letter stated.

The letter stated that Saibaba is planning to sit on a hunger strike in the next two days in the Nagpur Central Jail.

The letter claimed that Saibaba is also facing several health issues in the jail.

"He is falling unconscious in his anda cell frequently. He is suffering from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (heart problem), hypertension, paraplegia, syphoscoliosis of the spine, anterior horn cell disease, acute pancreatitis, gall-bladder stone, rotator cuff injury, fatty degeneration of rotator cuff muscles etc."

"An ACT scan report has indicated a cyst in his brain. All these medical and health issues are developed to be addressed immediately," the letter said.

Before fixing the cameras, Saibaba's advocate Aakash Sarode had gone to jail mulakat to meet Saibaba on May 9 and given him a few items along with a water bottle, his family members claimed.

"However, the prison administration refused to take the water bottle but accepted the rest of the items provided it to him.

By evening 6 pm on the same day, the superintendent of the jail, along with a huge number of prison personnel raided his anda cell.

They collected used and thrown old (drinking water) bottles, glasses, and other inmates' old bottles.

"They placed his steel thermos beside his cot and took photographs. He is the only one in the entire Anda cell who doesn't have a bottle to drink water frequently due to extreme heat. His hands are not working due to shoulder muscle damage; hence he cannot lift the (steel) thermos. He by himself cannot go and get water since he is a physically challenged person," the family alleged in the letter.

They requested the jail authorities to provide privacy and dignity to Saibaba and instruct the persons concerned in the Nagpur Central Jail to remove CCTV cameras that are keeping his privacy at stake.

They also demanded proper diagnosis and medical treatment for Saibaba's health issues and the grant of parole to enable him to get proper medication and required medical support, which is not available in Nagpur.

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