Monthly Archives: January 2014

GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION!

P. K. Vijayan 

                      On 12 September 2013, the university residence of Dr. G N Saibaba, Asst. Professor with the Dept of English, RLA College, DU, was raided by a police team comprising of the Maharashtra police, the Delhi police and personnel of some unidentified intelligence agencies. The “search warrant” for the raid stated that the residence was being used to deposit “stolen property”. As it turned out, the raid was actually to search for any material that would link Dr. Saibaba to the banned CPI (Maoist) party. By their own admission, the police had hoped to establish that Dr. Saibaba was in communication with the Maoist leadership; that he is the coordinator of the urban activities of the said organization; and other such points of culpability.

In the days following this raid, the media have been abuzz with all kinds of “information” provided by the Gadchiroli police, most of which (subtly and not so subtly) imply Dr. Saibaba’s guilt – but none of these reports, and the documents provided by the police that they cite, has actually managed to prove anything conclusively. The obvious reason for this is, of course, that the good doctor is not actually guilty of any of the ridiculous charges – whether of holding “stolen property” or of engaging in “internet chat sessions” with the top leadership of the CPI (Maoist) party! Nevertheless, the whisper-cum-smear campaign being conducted by the police and intelligence agencies in the media, has had enough success for reporters to repeatedly ask Dr. Saibaba whether he is, in fact, in touch with the Maoist leadership; whether he is a member of the central committee of the party as claimed by the police; whether his political activities are in fact aimed at furthering the Maoist cause; etc. One particular refrain amongst some journalists was, “There must be something the police have on him, else why would they come all the way from Gadchiroli to raid his house in Delhi?” In other words, it is clear that the police rumour-mills are working with such zeal to create an atmosphere of suspicion and doubt that (as they hope) when they do attempt to arrest Dr. Saibaba, they will be able to do so on even the flimsiest of grounds, without too much protest in the media. Rather fortunately for Dr. Saibaba, large sections of the media have remained relatively immune to this diabolically Goebbelsian attempt at manipulating it, and through it the public opinion at large.

However, the strength of the Goebbelsian method lies in its persistence: Joseph Goebbels is himself reported to have said that, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” This is neither a new opinion nor one particularly unique to Goebbels: personalities as varied as Vladimir Lenin and George W. Bush have expressed similar views. But Goebbels is reported to have gone on to say (and this is worth quoting in full detail),

The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas in disguise. Propaganda has only one object, to conquer the masses. Every means that furthers that aim is good; every means that hinders it is bad … You can make a man believe anything if you tell it to him in the right way … Nothing is easier than leading the people on a leash. I just hold up a dazzling campaign poster and they jump through it…The people must begin to think as one unit, react as such, and put themselves at the disposal of the government wholeheartedly…To belabour the people so long until they succumb to us.

This is reportedly an excerpt from The Goebbels Diaries, collected by Ludwig Lochner. Whether or not Goebbels actually said all this, it certainly captures the modus operandi of the Indian state in general, and of the police in this particular instance. There is good reason to believe that, in the absence of any real proof of criminal culpability, the state’s whisper-cum-smear campaign will be persisted with till a suitably hostile environment is created, in the media as well as in the public imagination – then it will swoop in for the kill.

A crucial factor in making this happen is the psychological power of association. It began with the arrests of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi in Gadchiroli, on the grounds that they were associated with the Maoists. Because Dr. Saibaba is known to be associated with Hem Mishra, who is alleged to have confessed his association with the Maoists, it ‘naturally’ meant that, by the inexorable logic of association, Dr. Saibaba too was associated with the Maoists. These series of associations are also extended in other ways: by suggesting, for instance, that Dr. Saibaba is known to the arrested Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy; or by highlighting his vociferous criticism of police and paramilitary action, in the name of tackling Maoist ‘insurgency’, against tribal communities in central India. By repeatedly locating Dr. Saibaba in an associative context of Maoist personalities and incidents in the media and in the public realm, a Pavlovian process of conditioning is initiated, whereby even the most critically alert consumers of this propaganda slowly, even in spite of themselves, get conditioned into associating his name with Maoism and the Maoists. Repetitious association gradually overcomes and displaces any empirical or logical challenges to the insinuations and implications registered by the process of association, permitting these to emerge as the ‘truth’.

This is a particularly effective method in a nation in which associational forms like kinship, caste, region, religion, ethnic affiliation, etc., have traditionally been the primary means of identifying and of identification. Not only do these forms locate identity through association, but they also generate specific expectations of conduct, values, affiliations and even social rank through that process of association. Thus for instance, Muslims are often associated with Pakistan, leading to a general expectation of either communalism or anti-nationalism or both from this mythologized figure. In short, this particular process of association is intended to generate prejudice through the production of a mythology of associations. In this particular instance, the mythology is not that of “Islamic terror” but of the new “threat to national security” in the form of the “red terror” of Maoism. By locating Dr. Saibaba in this mythology, it is quickly forgotten that he is also identified by his colleagues and students as a dedicated and committed teacher; as an active and engaged researcher in Dalit literature; as an activist of long standing and considerable repute, nationally and internationally, on issues of human, democratic and civil rights; and as a vocal and insistent defender of the rights of tribal communities to their land and livelihood – in short, as a person with an identity and a public image completely at odds with that being constructed for him now by the police and the intelligence agencies.

The last sphere of his involvement is of particular significance: tribal lands have been under threat for several years now, ever since Indian and multinational corporates turned their collective rapacious gaze on the wealth of minerals and other resources that lie buried under tribal lands. It is now a well-known fact that hundreds of MoUs were illegally signed by the Indian government with a host of such corporates, to permit them access to these lands to mine and expropriate the minerals – illegally, because these lands are under the protection of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The only obstacle to what has been described by a Government of India report critical of the government’s own policies, as “the biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus”, is the resistance by the tribal communities themselves. This resistance has taken many forms, only one of which is the armed resistance of the Maoists. But by labeling them all Maoists, and by associating any form of protest with Maoism, the powers that be have aimed to undermine all forms of protest. This has now taken on a note of urgency: after all, next year is election year.

Dr. Saibaba is the latest victim of this policy of undermining all opposition as “guilty by association” – but he is certainly not the first to suffer from this politics: another good doctor, Dr. Binayak Sen too was one such vociferous protester, and worked actively to bring medical help to the abjectly poor and backward tribal communities. He too was subjected to precisely this form of character-assassination and then found guilty of being a “Maoist sympathizer”. The state then proceeded to level so many charges against him that this good doctor now, although out on bail after several years in jail, has withdrawn completely from public life, and is spending his time in legal battles. The state has effectively silenced him. No doubt Dr. Saibaba too faces the same future. These two individuals are themselves only the more well-known of thousands of others, mostly tribal people but many non-tribals too, who have been implicated in false cases, arrested on fabricated charges, held without proper legal defence, and in many cases, subjected to brutal custodial torture. The case of Soni Sori, who too was similarly charged and subjected to savage rape and torture in custody, is a vivid reminder of the viciousness with which the state can act.

Dr. Saibaba happens to suffer from 90% physical disability: he would be particularly vulnerable to such viciousness. It would be easy to forget this, along with many of the other ways in which he is defined as an individual much respected and liked in his community of students and peers, as well as admired for the courage and forthrightness with which he has spoken and written on a variety of issues, including communalism, caste injustice, reservation policies, gender and sexual violence, etc., and not just against the excesses of the state. If his voice is silenced, especially through the diabolical process of constructing a mythology around him that will render ineffective any proof positive to the contrary, it will be a sad day for democracy in India. The fight to protect the rights and liberties of Dr. Saibaba must in this sense be understood as an important battle in the larger war against precisely this form of villification and demonization, which permits the state to manipulate the opinions and perceptions of its subjects.

(Published in the website of Economic and Political Weekly)

http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/guilty-association.html

Dr Saibaba on the interrogation

Press Release

The Maharashtra Police interrogated me at my residence, on 9 January 2014, for over four hours, from 1.00 pm onward. They sought information and clarifications regarding my political activity, as well as my academic interests. I extended my cooperation to the fullest, and answered their doubts and questions to the best of my abilities, and without any restraint. I hope that I have satisfactorily addressed all their concerns, and that the matter will be laid to rest now.

Dr. G N Saibaba

Call to Assemble against Continued Police Harassment of Dr. G.N. Saibaba

Call to Assemble against Continued Police Harassment of Dr. G.N. Saibaba

(Press Release: 8 January 2014)

Maharashtra Police to Interrogate Dr Saibaba on 9 January 2014 at 1pm at his residence

 

The DUTA expresses its concern and apprehension on being informed about the interrogation of  Dr. GN Saibaba, a teacher in the English Department of Ram Lal Anand College of the University of Delhi, scheduled and then subsequently re-scheduled by Maharashtra Police for the 9th of January 2014 (Thursday) at 1 pm at his residence within the university premises. The interrogation was originally planned on the 7th of January but on the evening before the interrogation, the Investigating Officer (IO) canceled that appointment for unspecified reasons. One day later, we have been informed that the officer has now insisted on rescheduling this interrogation to the 9th of January.

 

We understand that he will be questioned as part of an on-going enquiry by the Maharashtra Police since September 2013. This interrogation follows a raid conducted by a team comprising the Maharashtra and Delhi police on the 12th of September 2013. This raid was conducted on the basis of a misleading search warrant that stated the ‘recovery of stolen propety’. Neither the nature of the stolen property nor the case number were mentioned in the search warrant. The objects confiscated in the raid were clearly the personal property of Dr. Saibaba and taken in unsealed condition leaving it open to the possibility of tampering with the material. Since the raid, which was conducted in contravention with the due process of enquiry, Dr. Saibaba has faced continuous harassment in the form of imminent threat of arrest as well as a full-fledged smear campaign in the media conducted by the police. This smear campaign has repeatedly attempted to portray Dr. Saibaba as someone who has committed offences against the state by speaking for the oppressed and marginalised across the country.

 

The raid was followed by a summons sent by the Maharashtra police to Dr. Saibaba to appear for interrogation ‘anywhere outside Delhi’ or in Nagpur as part of the enquiry. After an appeal was sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to look into the raid and the summons, the NHRC sent notices to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi and DGP of Maharashtra to answer for asking a physically challenged person to present himself in this manner. The NHRC clearly cited the law that states that persons with disabilities need not present themselves anywhere outside their residence.

 

In light of these police claims and charges, it is clear that Dr. Saibaba is in no way involved with the case under enquiry. This fact is of serious concern for DUTA. A member of the university community has been facing continuous harassment by the police over four months. This repeated rescheduling of the interrogation and disregard for the commitments of a teacher in this university is intended to put pressure on Dr. Saibaba and continue the harassment of his family. This is indicative of the targeting of democratic voices and is a clear violation of human rights of the professor concerned. It reflects the deep erosion of civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution.

 

The DUTA expresses anguish at the continuous harassment of Dr. Saibaba and extends its fullest support to him and his family in this time as well as in his struggle for speaking for the most oppressed and marginalized people. Since he has expressed full cooperation with the investigation and agreed to clear all doubts and misgivings that the investigating officers may have, the DUTA demands that the Maharashtra police will extend all courtesies to a law abiding professor of this university and not persist in harassing him. Furthermore, the DUTA hopes that the police will honour their word, keep to their commitments and consider the busy academic schedule of Dr. Saibaba.

 

The DUTA appeals to all the teachers to be present in large numbers at Dr. Saibaba’s residence, Warden’s Flat, Gwyer Hall, University Road, Delhi University to express our support and solidarity and keep a vigil on any possible intimidation, harassment and arbitrary action by the Maharashtra and Delhi police with regards to Dr. Saibaba, his wife and teenage daughter. We will gather at the Warden’s Flat, Gwyer Hall from 12 noon onwards on Thursday, 9th January 2014.

 

 

(Nandita Narain)                                                                                      (Harish Khanna)

President, DUTA                                                                                    Secretary, DUTA

 

URGENT NOTICE: The Investigating Officer to interrogate Dr. GN Saibaba has rescheduled.

The Investigating Officer to interrogate Dr. GN Saibaba, Mr. Suhas P. Bawache, has informed at 6:40 pm on the 6th of January (TODAY) that the interrogation has to be rescheduled. This last minute rescheduling and the insistence on interrogation over the coming weekend must now be seen as part of the effort to continue to put pressure on Dr. Saibaba and intensify the harassment of his family. In light of this, we urge everyone to stand in solidarity with Dr. Saibaba and continue the vigil. The rescheduled date to converge at his residence will be informed soon. Please spread this message widely.

Dehli University Teachers Associations statement on the interrogation of Saibaba

Call to Assemble against Continued Police Harassment of Dr. G.N. Saibaba

(Press Release: 4 January 2014)

The DUTA expresses its concern and apprehension on being informed about the interrogation of Dr. GN Saibaba, a teacher in the English Department of Ram Lal Anand College of the University of Delhi, scheduled by Maharashtra Police on the 7th of January 2014 (Tuesday) at 11 am at his residence within the university premises. We have been informed that he is going to be questioned as part of an enquiry carried on by the Maharashtra Police since September 2013. This interrogation follows a raid conducted by a team comprising the Maharashtra and Delhi police on the 12th of September 2013. The raid was conducted on the basis of a misleading search warrant that stated the ‘recovery of stolen property’. The objects confiscated in the raid were clearly the personal property of Dr. Saibaba and taken in unsealed condition leaving it open to the possibility of tampering with the materials. Since the raid, which was conducted in contravention with the due process of enquiry, Dr. Saibaba has faced continuous harassment in the form of imminent threat of arrest as well as a full-fledged smear campaign in the media conducted by the police forces. This smear campaign has repeatedly attempted to portray Dr. Saibaba as someone who has committed offences against the state by speaking for the oppressed and marginalised across the country.

 

After the raid, the Maharashtra police called Dr. Saibaba to come ‘anywhere outside Delhi’ or to Nagpur for interrogation as part of the enquiry. This was followed by an intervention by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sending a notice to the Maharashtra and Delhi police asking them to respond for asking a physically challenged person to present himself in this manner despite the law clearly stating that such a person need not present himself anywhere outside his residence.

Furthermore, these charges are part of an ongoing investigation and Dr. Saibaba is in no way involved with the case. This fact is of serious concern for the DUTA. Not only is this in violation of the human rights of the professor concerned but is also indicative of the deep erosion of civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution. The DUTA expresses anguish at the continuous harassment of Dr. Saibaba and extends its fullest support to him and his family in this time as well as in his struggle for speaking for the most oppressed and marginalized people. Since he has expressed full cooperation with the investigation and agreed to clear all doubts and misgivings that the investigating officers may have, the DUTA demands that the Maharashtra police will extend all courtesies to a law abiding professor of this university and not persist in harassing him.

 

The DUTA appeals to all the teachers to be present in large numbers at Dr. Saibaba’s residence, Warden’s Flat, Gwyer Hall, University Road, Delhi University to express our support and solidarity and keep a vigil on any possible intimidation, harassment and arbitrary action by the Maharashtra and Delhi police with regards to Dr. Saibaba, his wife and teenage daughter. We will gather at the Warden’s Flat, Gwyer Hall at 10.30 am on Tuesday, 7th January 2014.

 

 

(Nandita Narain)                                                                                      (Harish Khanna)

President, DUTA                                                                                    Secretary, DUTA