The 81-year-old poet Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, has tested positive for COVID-19.

 Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram walks holding a mask in his hand at ParliamentPTI
news Health Friday, July 17, 2020 - 11:50

Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday demanded that jailed poet and activist Varavara Rao be released immediately and admitted to a super speciality hospital. Rao's health is a matter of grave concern, Chidambaram said. 

The 80-year-old, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, has tested positive for COVID-19. He is lodged at the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai under judicial custody and was admitted to the Maharashtra government-run JJ Hospital in Mumbai earlier this week.

"The condition of Shri Varavara Rao as described by his family is a matter of grave concern. It is beyond belief that the State, the police and the prison authorities can behave in such an inhuman manner under the watch of the NHRC," Chidambaram said on Twitter. 

"Shri Varavara Rao should be released immediately and admitted to a super speciality hospital that will treat him properly," he demanded.

On Thursday, according to a letter written by the Human Rights Defenders Alert stated that Varavara's family went to meet him at JJ Hospital bed, he was found lying on the bed in an "inhuman condition in a pool of urine," without any attendant present around him. The letter added that when the family tried to clean him up, they were shooed out from the ward. 

Rao has been in jail for about 22 months and had earlier approached the special NIA court, seeking bail on medical grounds and the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

Rao and nine other activists have been arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, which was initially probed by Pune Police and later transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). 

The case is related to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.

(With PTI inputs)
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