Varavara Rao, who was released on conditional bail, was discharged from Nanavati Hospital on March 6.

Varavara Rao
news Varavara Rao Thursday, March 11, 2021 - 19:08

82-year-old Varavara Rao, who lost about 20 kgs in prison, according to family members, is slowly recovering from physical weakness. Rao, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, who was discharged from hospital on March 6, is out on interim-bail for six months considering his frail health. 

The octogenarian activist, poet, literary critic, who is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was jailed for nearly two years without a trial along with other accused–Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha–for having alleged links with Maoists following the Elgar Parishad meeting. In prison, Rao had contracted COVID-19 and was diagnosed with delirium. He had also suffered an injury to his head, worrying his family members.

Rao, who is presently under the care of his wife Hemalatha and daughter Sahaja in Mumbai, continues to dedicate most of his time to reading, they say. “He is not disoriented anymore. He interacts well with us and spends his time reading books. He is presently reading Kaifi Azmi’s poems,” says Sahaja.

N Venugopal, Rao’s nephew, says, “He has been reading at least 400 pages every day since he was shifted to Nanavati hospital. In those three months in Nanavati Hospital, he had read 80-90 books.”

Last year in July, Rao’s health was rapidly failing. The anxious family members promptly sought his immediate release. To make the situation worse, the activist-poet also tested positive for COVID-19, prompting international scholars and human rights activists to express their solidarity and appeal for his release in view of the pandemic.

Rao was shifted to state-run Nanavati Hospital in November after his wife Hemalatha moved the court seeking his release along with a plea to shift him to a multi-specialty hospital. He continued to be in the hospital, until his release recently.

“Now he is completely fine. There is hardly a difference between how he was before being prisoned and now. He is the same person without any change,” Sahaja says. She further adds, “As there are restrictions, he is not meeting anyone.”

The release came with a number of conditions that ordered that the poet should stay within NIA’s jurisdiction, not participate in any meetings, not meet any persons involved in the case, not speak with the media, and should appear for court hearings, as well as be in touch with the local police station via video conference every fortnight, among others. The violation of any of these conditions would lead to the cancellation of the bail.


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