[Reader-list] An Arrested Story

Asit Das asit1917 at gmail.com
Wed Jun 4 02:56:55 CDT 2014

An Arrested Story
  Vol - XLIX No. 23, June 07, 2014 | P K Vijayan

   - Commentary <http://www.epw.in/commentary>


I want to tell you a story, of a little man, if I can; his name was – well,
his name – we will come to it shortly. This little man was born into a
wretchedly poor peasant family that lived on the outskirts of a little
known village, with the out-castes and untouchables. This little man’s
father had chosen to live with the marginal and the excluded, as a mark of
solidarity with them – and this was motivated simply by an instinctive
sense of justice, since the little man’s father was not even literate, let
alone politically educated.

So the little man grew up amongst the sweepers and the scavengers, with
hunger and deprivation as bosom companions to him and his siblings. Then,
when he was barely five years old, he was afflicted with polio in both his
legs, as a result of which he almost died from lack of medical facilities.
But the little man’s father managed to stave off his death, by running from
pillar to post, from every doctor to every dispensary that held out hope,
till the fast-spreading disease was finally checked; nevertheless, the
little man lost the use of both his legs completely from the disease.

This did not deter the little man or his father. He was enrolled in a
mission school, where he learned to read and write and consumed everything
he read with rapacious delight. Reading by the light of street lamps,
dragging himself on his elbows and hands on the dirt roads of his village,
from home to school, eating one meal in two days sometimes, the little man
delighted in the world of books, and forgot about his own deprived and
depraved one, for the hours that he was lost in them. The father meanwhile,
took the little man wherever he could, showing him as much of the world as
he could from the handlebars of his bicycle, obdurately refusing to accept
that his son’s condition would limit his mobility. The little man thus grew
up with a deep wanderlust and an indomitable will to overcome the
limitations of his condition.

Which is how the little man, who was now no longer little but a full-grown,
popular and well-liked young man, despite his 90% disability, went on to
complete his school, pre-university and undergraduate degrees with flying
colours, largely on the dint of scholarships and fellowships earned through
sheer academic excellence. And as this young man grew into maturity, he
also saw the colours and prejudices of the world around him, and learnt of
its profound inequalities and injustices, and of the many, many crores of
people who were systemically and systematically disadvantaged from birth –
if not in medical terms like him, then in social and economic terms, very
much like him, and in fact, much worse off than him.

So it was that when he moved to the big city of Hyderabad for his Master’s
degree, he was already filled with a steely resolve to fight these
injustices with the same never-say-never spirit with which he had fought,
and continued to fight, his own debilitating circumstances. This is how the
young man, by the time he completed his Master’s degree, had become an
accomplished, respected and hugely popular scholar and political activist.
But the young man wanted to see more, to learn more, to do more – so he
gave up the familiar terrain and people and tongues of Hyderabad, and moved
to Delhi, with his newly married wife. Struggling to battle the harsh and
callous conditions of the bigger city, coping with unfamiliarity and
unemployment and prejudice and loneliness, this man, against his better
instincts, against the enormous demands placed on him mentally and
physically and financially, nevertheless stayed on and moved from job to
job till he was finally appointed as a lecturer in a Delhi University

This man is now a scholar and teacher of international standing and repute.
He completed his doctoral degree, and has travelled extensively, nationally
and internationally, presenting papers and giving lectures. And he has
spoken out strongly, consistently and irrepressibly against the injustices
and inequalities that he grew up with, and others that he has learned
about, and yet others that are evolving around us, in ever-multiplying
forms, as the welfare state bids farewell and exits the political stage.
The polymorphous perversity that has pushed out and replaced the welfare
state however, is profoundly invested in retaining, maintaining, sustaining
and indeed further entrenching precisely those – and other – injustices and
inequalities, because that is precisely what it feeds on, and thrives on,
and cannot bear to have challenged, least of all by the likes of this man,
who epitomises and embodies everything that it wants to crush and destroy –
indomitable spirit, fearless resistance, and the will to overcome the
cruelest of odds.

Little wonder then, that the perverse drones of this polymorphous
perversity sought to arrest a man already in a permanent state of arrest,
thanks to his disability. Little wonder that they did so Mafioso style, by
blindfolding and abducting him from his car on a university street in broad
daylight in full public view, and swiftly bundling him by air to another
city. Little wonder that they brought case after fabricated case against
him, starting with the charge that he was holding stolen property at his
house (can there be anything more absurd than accusing a wheelchair bound
man of running around stealing property?), and leading up to charging him
with conspiring to wage war on the state (in answer to the previous
parenthetical question – yes, incredibly, our polymorphous perversity can
go, and has gone, to the even more absurd lengths of accusing a wheelchair
bound man of seeking to bring down the great Indian state!). Little wonder
then, that they chose to do so in the peak period of a general election, so
that the absurdity of their actions would simply disappear into the still
greater absurdities of the great Indian circus of the elections that are
farcically celebrated as the greatest festival of democratic participation
in the world. And what greater comment on the farcicality of that vaunted
“democracy” can there be than this arrest, and its timing, and its
rationale, and its method? And what greater ironical comment can there be
on the story of this man, if, after all the odds he has overcome, after all
the disabilities he has brushed aside, after all the deprivations and
handicaps he has forged through, after all his achievements and
accomplishments, he should be silenced and immobilised through the sheer
brute force of the very polymorphous perversity that he has spent his life
battling and overcoming?

As we now know, this man is now in solitary confinement, in an “*unda*
cell” (egg cell), without light or ventilation, deprived of medication,
unable to use even the toilet without severe pain and discomfort, crawling
on hands and elbows wherever he is made to go – all in a desperate attempt
to destroy his dignity, break his spirit and get him to confess to crimes
he neither committed nor of which they have any proof of his committing.

G N Saibaba is not just another “good doctor”. He has become the biggest
“little man” in the country today. His voice is the voice of the marginal
and excluded that he grew up with, in that village in his youth – of every
marginal and excluded voice in every village in the country. His story is
their story, and must not be muzzled, and cannot be silenced. Saibaba must
be freed for that story to be freed. Immediately.
*Source URL:* http://www.epw.in/commentary/arrested-story.html

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