Expressing their “grave concern” over the health of 81-year-old poet Varavara Rao, who has been convicted in the Bhima Koregaon case, 14 Members of Parliament (MPs) have written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on June 19, urging state authorities to provide medical treatment to Rao and former Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba.
The fourteen MPs, from various political parties including CPI(M), Congress, DMK, VCK, CPI and RJD, have asked for medical attention to be provided to the duo in light of a surge of cases of COVID-19 within prisons.
Rao has been imprisoned in the Taloja Central Jail, Navi Mumbai. On August 28, 2018, he was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence, and has been accused of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In their letter, the MPs write that the 81-year-old has been vomiting daily and has not been keeping well. The MPs mentioned that his health reports mention an electrolyte disturbance which could have a detrimental impact on his health since Rao is a cardiac patient. The letter added that his intestinal ulcers need an urgent examination as well, and that the procedure has not been conducted even after six months of being prescribed.
“As he is under such a dire health condition, we urge you to transfer him to a hospital. The present level of care provided in the jail is not acceptable. We request you to give him the necessary and urgent medical attention by moving him to a hospital,” the statement added.
The MPs who have written to the Maharashtra CM are: PR Natarajan (CPI(M)), KK Ragesh (CPI(M)), K Subbarayan (CPI), Uttam Kumar Reddy (Congress), Komati Reddy Venkat Reddy (Congress), Manoj Jha (RJD), D Ravikumar (VCK), Thol Thirumavalavan (VCK), A Revanth Reddy (Congress), Sumathy Thamizhachi Thangapandian (DMK), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Kanimozhi (DMK) and S Venkatesan (CPI(M)).
“We also use this opportunity to request access to medical treatment for Dr GN Saibaba, the wheelchair-bound professor with 90% disabilities whose health condition is also most vulnerable,” their statement added.
Left leaning poet and writer Varavara Rao is among 11 rights activists who have been jailed for their alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence. The others are Sudha Bhardwaj, Shoma Sen, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Rona Wilson.
In a letter issued on June 16, 500 people, including film personalities like Soumitra Chatterjee, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Naseeruddin Shah and Aparna Sen wrote: “These activists are not convicted criminals. Nor are they planning to flee the country and escape the law. We demand that they be granted bail immediately on humanitarian grounds as their lives are at risk at a time when a pandemic is raging across the country.”
On May 30, Rao’s wife demanded his immediate release on bail after he was hospitalised in the state-run JJ Hospital in the evening of May 28. Doctors said that Rao had complained of dizziness and had fainted for a brief period. However, he was kept in the hospital for only a period of three days.