The 80-year-old poet is lodged in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, and his family said that he was unable to speak coherently.

Poet and political activist Varavara Rao speaking into a micFILE IMAGE/COURTESY: ARA VIND
news Human Rights Sunday, July 12, 2020 - 10:05

Imprisoned revolutionary poet Varavara Rao’s health has been deteriorating in jail, according to his family. Varavara Rao’s daughter Pavana told the Indian Express that the family received a brief phone call from her father on Saturday, where he spoke incoherently. A fellow inmate reportedly told the family that Varavavra Rao’s condition had worsened in the past few days, and he was dependent on others for daily chores. 

With this, calls for his release from jail have intensified. 

80-year-old Varavara Rao was arrested nearly two years ago, in November 2018, over allegations of his involvement in a conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is currently lodged at the Taloja central jail in Navi Mumbai. 

His health condition has been worsening since May, and his family, as well as several activists and leaders, have been calling for his release, or for better healthcare in jail. His application for interim bail on health grounds is pending before the Bombay High Court.  

Varavara Rao’s daughter Pavana also told The Wire that the jail authorities had been withholding information about his health condition from the family.  

In April, around 40 prominent writers wrote to PM Modi requesting Varavara Rao’s release, with the onset of the pandemic. Recently, several Members of Parliament (MPs) from various Opposition parties, including the Congress, DMK, CPI(M), VCK, CPI and RJD, wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with a request to provide medical care to Varavara Rao and to shift him to a hospital. Prominent intellectuals from across the world, including Noam Chomsky, Homi K Bhabha, Bruno Latour and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, also wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind and Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, appealing for the release of Varavara Rao and Dr GN Saibaba. 

In May, when his health condition began to deteriorate, it was suspected that he might have contracted COVID-19. However, he tested negative for coronavirus at the time. 

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