Delhi University teacher Saibaba says he is a victim of unholy politics

NEW DELHI: It's about a fortnight since police raided the home of Delhi University teacher G N Saibaba. The Ram Lal Anand teacher, police have alleged, is "an urban contact" for Maoists. He was asked to appear before the Maharashtra Police "out of Delhi or at Nagpur" by Wednesday. However, pointing out that he is 90% disabled and uses a wheelchair, he asked the cops to conduct their " enquiry" in Delhi.

Born in Andhra Pradesh's Amalapuram in 1967, Saibaba has known poverty first-hand. "He didn't have electricity at home and got a wheelchair after coming to Delhi in 2003," says his wife. His father grew rice on three-acres but by the time Saibaba was 10, he had lost the land to moneylenders.

A consistently stellar performance in class ensured scholarships throughout. But the fee for his entrance test for master's in Hyderabad was paid by his wife, then girlfriend.

He met Vasantha at a coaching class and they fell in love over Class X maths homework. The duo "exhausted" the literature section of the Amalapuram library.

"My interest in politics is through literature," says Saibaba. He read Gurujada Apparao (1862-1915) and Sri Sri (1910-1983) and "revolutionary literature in Telugu".

His favourite author is Kenyan Ngugi Wa Thiong'o whom he met at a seminar. There were photos, but Vasantha can't find them. "When the police returned the pictures, those with Sai and Ngugi weren't there," she says. "They probably thought Ngugi's a Maoist," jokes Saibaba. The loss of three hard disks is less funny. One had personal photos; another videos of protests; the third three manuscripts he's been working on.

Saibaba graduated from SKBR College and topped his university. Vasantha funded trip to Hyderabad and a new set of experiences - he left Amalapuram and saw a train for the first time.

Later, as an activist of the All India People's Resistance Forum, he travelled extensively over 2,00,000 km to speak in support of liberation movements in Kashmir and the northeast and campaigned for dalit and adivasi rights.

Saibaba cut his political teeth with the Radical Students' Union during his MA-MPhil days. "My political life began with the Mandal Commission and the fight for reservation." Vasantha joined him in Hyderabad. They married in March, 1991. "RSU organized a public meeting on man-woman relationship," says Saibaba. The couple laughs at the odd way of solemnizing their nuptials. "We spent Rs 832 including registration," he says. Till the birth of his daughter, Saibaba was practically a full-time activist with AIPRF. He abandoned his PhD; Vasantha joined a women's organization.

In Delhi, he returned to academics. He taught at Sri Venkateswara for three months in 2003 before moving to RLA. In 2005, AIPRF evolved into the Revolutionary Democratic Front - accused of being a Maoist front. "We have an ideological understanding," says Saibaba, "But no organizational linkages." RDF's members have been arrested before and it was banned in Andhra last year. In Delhi, Saibaba organized fact-finding missions to Jharkhand, Kashmir, Assam and Manipur and completed his PhD.

The raid and the support from activists made him a curiosity. "I told my students why it happened." Saibaba believes it's an attempt to silence critics of Operation Green Hunt, started in 2009 to ostensibly counter Maoists. But activists believe OGH's main aim is "killing adivasis," clearing the area for mining.Saibaba, convenor of the Forum Against War on People, says, "We didn't take this campaign up for the Maoists."

The raid on Saibaba came close on the heels of the arrest of JNU student Hem Mishra who allegedly mentioned Saibaba's name. "If they can come to raid," says Vasantha, "They can question him here." "I've said I'm willing to cooperate," says Saibaba, "And asked them to let me know the time so my teaching is not disrupted."