Sagar Gorkhe, a cultural activist who has been locked up in the Taloja Central Jail since September 2020 as a virtual political prisoner in the Elgar Parishad Bhima Koregaon case, has now gone on hunger strike to protest his inhuman treatment in jail. Gorkhe has written to Maharashtra’s Home Minister, informing him about his decision that he was forced to take due to Taloja Central Jail allegedly harassing him and denying him his basic human rights.
The letter brings to the light the following issues faced by Gorkhe and his co-accused:
Denial of Medical Treatment
In his letter, he states that he is being deliberately denied treatment from the prison medical officials by the prison Superintendent who is obstructing the access to such facilities in alliance with the medical officials despite knowing that the accused is suffering from various ailments such as back pain, joint pain and skin allergies, despite courts orders to provide access to medical services from external hospitals. He claims that there has also been intentional negligence in the medical treatment of his co-accused Gautam Navlakha, Ramesh Gaychor, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Anand Teltumbde, and Hany Babu as they too are afflicted with various illnesses. Along with several other inmates he claims to be suffering from skin diseases, as well as an increased number of flies and mosquitoes during the summer.
Violation of Right to Privacy
Every letter sent to him and his co-accused is illegally scanned by the superintendents and sent directly to investigation agencies. Instead of opening the letters in front of them, each letter that they receive is already opened and unsealed by the time it reaches them. The books, accompanying papers, and stamps are sneakily stolen. Similarly, the letter being sent outside is sent directly for scanning instead of being sealed in front of him.
Shortage of water
Contrary to the prison rules which entitles every inmate to 135 litres of water, prison administration provides only one bucket of water to every inmate which amounts to merely 15 litres which is not sufficient t o maintain proper hygiene. In the letter, he alleges that the inmates are forced to survive on 15 litres of water only so that the prison administrators can sell water.
Lack of facilities for visitors
In the letter, he complains about the inconvenience his family has to face, who travels hundreds of kilometres only to meet him as the prison lacks a visiting room, seating arrangements, clean drinking water, fans and even public toilets.
Denial of telephone service
Telephone service is being denied by the prison authorities citing reason that his charges are associated with Naxalism and according to them, he is not entitled to the service under Clause 3 of the Prisons and Correctional Services dated February 12, 2019, which excludes inmates charged with terrorist activities, sedition, naxalism, gang war, organised crime and habitual offenders from availing such services. In the letter, he claims that it is a violation of his fundamental human rights as he being an accused is treated as a convict without the accusation against him being proven to be true.
Accordingly, Gorkhe, in his letter, raises the following demands:
1. Please provide me and my co-accused from the Elgar Parishad Case with immediate medical services and take action against the medical officials for negligence in duty.
2. The scanning done by administration and investigation agencies should be stopped at once and with due process legal action should be taken against the culprits.
3. Immediately put a stop to the perversely orchestrated water shortage in the prison and its inhumane sale. Immediately ensure every inmate is provided 135 litres of water and action is taken against those responsible.
4. A permanent visiting room should be immediately constructed, and clean drinking water, sanitation, fans, and other facilities should be made available. An up-to-date token system should be implemented as soon as possible.
5. The circular issued by the Prisons and Correctional Services dated 12.02.2019 should be revoked and according to the principle of equal justice all undertrial and convicted inmates should receive the services made available during the Covid-19 pandemic with due verification and following the Gujarat and Telangana State Jail telephone facility pattern.
It has been reported by Indian Express that co-accused Gautam Navlakha, on Monday submitted a plea before the special court seeking permission to use a mosquito net as he has an apprehension of contracting malaria and dengue.
A prison official reportedly stated, “The mosquito nets have a long string and need to be fixed through nails in the wall. Both the string and the nails are a security risk, which can be used by prisoners to harm themselves by suicide or harm others. Mosquito repellent ointments and coils are available at the prison canteen, which many are using. The nets were seized as there are no court orders permitting them.”