The 81-year-old poet with a history of high blood pressure and heart conditions has been an undertrial at the Mumbai jail for 22 months.

Varavara Rao being taken into custody while a bystander films himFile Photo/PTI
news Human Rights Monday, July 13, 2020 - 08:40

Romila Thapar and four other Supreme Court petitioners on the Bhima Koregaon case on Sunday wrote to the Maharashtra government and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to facilitate the immediate transfer of Varavara Rao to JJ Hospital for proper treatment. The family of Varavaro had expressed concern over his health. 

Varavara Rao, his co-prisoner Vernon Gonsalves and three other activists are facing imprisonment for allegedly plotting the assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and for the Bhima Koregaon violence that took place in 2018.

Varavara Rao, poet, journalist, literary critic and a public speaker from Telangana, in his last interaction with his family was found suffering from low levels of sodium and potassium as diagnosed by the JJ Hospital, Mumbai on May 28. The treatment was however abruptly terminated and the poet was taken back to Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai. 

The 81-year-old poet, with a history of high blood pressure and heart conditions, has been an undertrial at the Mumbai jail for 22 months and counting, say family members. 

The appeal was made by Historian Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Maja Daruwala and Satish Deshpande who had earlier sought bail for Varavara Rao and others with the Supreme Court in 2018. 

On Sunday, they appealed to the Government of Maharashtra and the National Investigation Agency to facilitate the immediate transfer of Varavara Rao to JJ Hospital where he can be treated for his ailments. In a press conference, Varavara Rao's family stated that he is suffering from delirium, has been talking disjointedly and seemed confused due to an electrolyte imbalance in his body. 

Read: ‘State trying to kill him’: Varavara Rao’s family demands immediate medical aid

“Rao poses no flight risk and has voluntarily submitted to all investigations for the past 22 months. There is no reason in law or conscience to hold him in circumstances that increase the risk to his fragile health,” read the petitioner's statement to the media.

Even before Rao was arrested, the petitioners had been arguing that the NIA investigation should be impartial, speedy and supervised by the judiciary. “We have now reached a stage where his life is at stake. To knowingly risk the life of a person in state custody by refusing proper medical treatment would amount to a form of the “encounter”, an extra-legal punishment which the State institutions are duty-bound to forego,” the petitioners argued.

“We appeal to the authorities to assure the nation that the Indian State respects the rule of law and the Constitution, by ensuring that P Varavara Rao receives immediate and proper treatment and that his family is allowed to look after him during his illness,” the statement read.

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