A recent report by The Quint said that the book ‘Varavara Rao: The Revolutionary Poet’ could be indefinitely postponed — at least until the trial in the Bhima Koregaon case starts.

Varavara Rao
news Controversy Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 16:02

Is Penguin planning to indefinitely postpone the release of ‘Varavara Rao: The Revolutionary Poet’ — a collection of poems by the revolutionary poet translated into English? The co-editors of the book have said that they have faith that the publisher, Penguin, wouldn’t do this. In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, November 10, journalist and translator N Venugopal, and writer and poet Meena Kandasamy, said that they trust publisher Penguin Randomhouse India, to publish the book, which is a compilation of 65 poems written by Varavara Rao. 

The statement came following a report by The Quint which said that the book could be delayed indefinitely as the poet is presently being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act charges.

“The Varavara Rao book, and the delay surrounding its publication have been in the news today. We, N Venugopal and Meena Kandasamy, the co-editors of the volume, reiterate our trust in Penguin Randomhouse India, and await a favourable, second legal opinion. The volume reflects 60 years of VV’s work and more than two years of our joint collaboration,” the statement read. Varavara Rao is popularly referred to as VV. 

The statement further added, “We have hope that this book will be published in the near future. In this difficult hour, our thoughts are with VV, who is undergoing a surgery tomorrow. We request everyone to respect our need for some calm and strength at this difficult time.”

Varavara Rao, who espouses ultra-left ideology, was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case on August 28, 2018, along with 15 others. He is presently in Mumbai, after getting bail on health grounds in March 2021. He is undergoing surgery for a hernia.

According to The Quint, the book was supposed to be published by July 2021. However, after consulting the legal team, the book publishing house decided to release the book only after the trial in the case begins. A second legal opinion also did not materialise, The Quint reported. Though Varavara Rao was arrested in 2018, the trial in the case is yet to begin, meaning that the book could be delayed indefinitely.

Speaking to TNM, Varavara Rao’s nephew and one of the co-editors of the book, N Venugopal said, “The contract states that the book shall be published within 24 months of the signing of the contract, so that gives us time till October 2022. Before that, whatever we say is speculative. We are hopeful that the book will come out. The process is going on. There may be hitches but the process is going on,” Venugopal said.  

The other arrested activists in the case include Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe, Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Hany Babu and Father Stan Swamy. Adivasi rights activist Father Stan Swamy, who was 84, died in jail custody on July 5, 2021. His death was termed as a failure of the judiciary for not giving bail to a person battling with Parkinson’s disease. 

On December 31, 2017, Rao and other activists held the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune, marking the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima Koregaon battle. The following day, violence took place. Dalits who annually gather at the Vijay Stambh (victory pillar) in Bhima Koregaon village, to pay respects to the Mahar soldiers who fought against the Peshwas and emerged victorious, were reportedly attacked by conservative Hindus. 

In the violence, one person was killed. The Pune police later arrested Varavara Rao and others who had participated in the event claiming that their ‘inflammatory’ speeches led to the violence. The case was later taken over by the NIA after the investigation found an alleged plot to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Private investigation conducted by Arsenal Consulting, a Massacheusests based forensic team, has concluded that the incriminating material found on the electronic devices of Rona Wilson, one of the arrested activists, was planted. 

Meanwhile, after several pleas, Varavara Rao whose health was rapidly deteriorating, and had contracted COVID-19 in Taloja prison, was given a six-month bail in the case in March this year. The bail was later extended on grounds of his medical conditions. 

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