The family of Varavara Rao, the 81-year-old jailed Telugu poet and activist, faced a disturbing scene when they went to meet him in Mumbai on July 15. The family alleges that he had been kept in “inhuman conditions” at JJ Hospital, where he was admitted due to his deteriorating health.
In a statement released by the Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA), the family said that Rao’s family, including his wife Hemalatha, three daughters and nephew, visited him at the Mumbai hospital.
Rao tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday and was shifted to St George Hospital on July 16.
While Rao was still at JJ Hospital on July 15, the family found him in the transit ward “like an orphan,” according to the press statement. Rao was allegedly lying in a pool of urine on the bed.
The poet also did not immediately recognise his wife or daughters, but eventually realised who they were. The statement also noted that there were no nurses or attendants standing near him. Only some police officers were standing nearby.
When the family enquired after his situation, nurses told them that neither equipment nor treatment is given to patients in the transit ward. Rao’s nephew even tried to change his soiled bed sheets, but the family was ‘thrown’ out of the hospital by staff, they allege.
Taking note of the Varavara Rao’s health condition, the HRDA is demanding National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene as its directives are not being implemented in Rao’s case.
The NHRC earlier gave two weeks for the authorities to respond. Since Rao’s health is rapidly deteriorating, the HRDA appealed that Rao should be immediately shifted to a super speciality hospital as desired by the family and to treat Rao at the expense of the state.
TNM earlier reported that Rao has been in jail for about 22 months and had earlier approached the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, seeking bail on medical grounds and the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Rao and nine other activists were arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, which was initially probed by the Pune Police and later transferred to the NIA in January this year.
The case related to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence on the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.
Rao was taken into custody under charges of instigating violence at the Bhima Koregaon event and over an alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.