The family of Telugu poet Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, on Sunday claimed that his health is deteriorating in jail and that he needs urgent medical attention.
In a press note titled: DON'T KILL VARA VARA RAO IN JAIL, Rao's family said he has been in poor health ever since he was shifted in an unconscious state from JJ Hospital to Taloja jail on 28 May and that their concern was sparked by a routine phone call on Saturday evening in which he went into a kind of "delirious and hallucinated" talk about the funerals of his mother and father, which occurred 70 and 40 years ago respectively.
In prison since 2018, Rao's interim bail plea citing ill health and susceptibility to COVID-19 was rejected by a special court on 27 June. Rao, currently lodged in Taloja jail on the outskirts of Mumbai, is one of the 11 political prisoners arrested in the controversial Bhima Koregaon case.
The following is the full text of the press note:
We, the family members of Varavara Rao, world-renowned Telugu revolutionary poet and public intellectual, who is incarcerated in Navi Mumbai's Taloja Jail, are very much worried about his deteriorating health. His health condition has been scary for over six weeks now, ever since he was shifted in an unconscious state to JJ Hospital from Taloja Jail on May 28, 2020. Even as he was discharged from the hospital and sent back to jail three days later, there has been no improvement in his health and he is still in need of emergency heathcare.
The immediate cause of concern now is that we are very much perturbed at the routine phone call we received from him on Saturday evening. Though the earlier two calls on June 24 and July 2 were also worrying with his weak and muffled voice, incoherent speech and abruptly jumping into Hindi. As an eloquent and articulate public speaker and writer in Telugu for over five decades, a Telugu teacher for four decades and known for his meticulous memory, this fumbling, incoherence and loss of memory were in themselves strange and frightening.
But the latest call, on July 11 is much more worrisome as he did not answer straight questions on his health and went into a kind of delirious and hallucinated talk about the funeral of his father and mother, the events that happened seven decades and four decades ago respectively. Then his co-accused companion took the phone from him and informed us that he is not able to walk, go to toilet and brush his teeth on his own. We were also told that he is always hallucinating that we, family members, were waiting at the jail gate to receive him as he was getting released.
His co-prisoner also said he needs immediate medical care for not only physical but also neurological issues. The confusion, loss of memory and incoherence are the results of electrolyte imbalance and fall of Sodium and Potassium levels leading to brain damage. This electrolyte imbalance may be fatal also. Taloja Jail Hospital is not at all equipped to handle this kind of serious ailment either in medical expertise or equipment. Thus it is highly required that he be shifted to a fully equipped super specialty hospital to save his life and prevent possible brain damage and risk to life due to electrolyte imbalance.
At the present juncture we are leaving aside all the pertinent facts like, that the case against him is fabricated; he had to spend 22 months in jail as an undertrial with the process turned into punishment; his bail petitions got rejected at least five times now and even the bail petitions with his age, ill-health and Covid vulnerability as grounds were ignored.
His life is the top most concern for us right now. Our present demand is to save his life. We demand the government to shift him to a better hospital or allow us to provide required medical care. We want to remind the government that it has no right to deny the right to life of any person, much less an undertrial prisoner.
(The text has been reproduced in its entirety and has not been edited by Firstpost for style or content.)
Rao has been in jail for over 22 months. His bail pleas, including those filed for relief on the ground of his age, ill-health and risk of COVID-19, have been rejected on multiple occasions, the last such on 26 June by a special court in Mumbai.
Rao and 10 other activists were arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case which was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by the Centre in January.
The case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave in Maharashtra's Pune on 31 December, 2017, which the Pune police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district.