'Illegal, Inhuman': Varavara Rao's Family Say Health Details Kept From Them

Jailed revolutionary poet Varavara Rao tested positive for coronavirus this week (File)


The family of revolutionary poet-writer Varavara Rao, arrested and jailed over an alleged 2018 plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has said details about the 80-year-old’s health and medical condition were deliberately kept from them.

They said details of a head injury suffered before his transfer from his jail cell to Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital, via the city’s JJ Hospital and St George Hospital, were only learned via media sources.

Varavara Rao, who was lodged at the Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai, tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

“The family is not informed officially about any update. Not sharing health updates of a person in judicial custody with his family is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman,” his wife, Hemalata, and his daughters, said in a joint statement.

The family alleged that even information about testing positive for the virus was released only after he had been shifted from the jail to multiple hospitals.

All other information is only available through secondary sources, the family claimed; news that he had suffered a head injury, they said, was known through friends in the media.

“In the absence of official and transparent information, speculation, rumours and half-truths are being spread and these cause further anxiety to family and friends,” Mr Rao’s immediate family said.

“Today’s news – that he suffered a head injury, whether in JJ Hospital or St George and discovered on arrival at Nanavati – made us highly perturbed and worried about his safety and well-being,” they said.

“It is the family’s right to get official and transparent updates on his health status, line of treatment and probable risks but the concerned prison, police and health administrations have not come to the family with this information,” they added.

Describing this as a “gross violation of the family’s rights (and) grave misconduct on the part of state institutions”, the family have made the following demands of the Maharashtra government.

  1. To allow a family member to assist/attend since he is reportedly not in a position to do anything on his own
  2. To immediately direct hospital/prison administration to provide regular, transparent and official updates, at least twice a day, on his health status and line of treatment
  3. To provide the family a contact in the hospital from whom to get information
  4. To make all his medical records accessible to the family
  5. To remove hurdles and enable the judicial process to grant regular or interim bail on grounds of health, age and COVID-19 condition so he can be treated in a hospital of the family’s choice

Varavara Rao and nine other activists were arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case in 2018, which was initially probed by the Pune Police and later transferred to the NIA.

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 the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.

The police also claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

Varavara Rao, who headed “Veerasam”, an association of revolutionary writers, strongly denied the allegations. He said all five arrested were working for the betterment of oppressed.

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