June 28, 2020

Inhuman Treatment of Detenues in Bhima Koregaon case

CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has written to union home minister Amit Shah against the inhuman treatment meted out to the political and human rights activists arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

In her letter on June 21, Karat said, “Even though nine of the 11 arrested have been incarcerated for two years which is more than enough time for investigation, the NIA has been consistently opposing bail applications. Several of the accused are in fragile health… At this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are in real danger of contracting the virus and many of them suffer from co- morbidities which make them very vulnerable.”

The arrested accused in this case are Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde.

The most recent example is that of the inhuman treatment meted out to Gautam Navlakha. Even while his bail application was pending before a Delhi Court, he was whisked away by a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and taken to Mumbai. Here he has been sent to what is referred to as a quarantine facility which is a school near the jail. There are 350 inmates, with just three bathrooms with no bucket or mug. He is in a small classroom with 34 others, absolutely jam-packed and extremely unhygienic. He is also vulnerable to the virus with serious digestive problems, blood pressure and hypertension. His quarantine period is over and yet he is being kept in that centre as a measure to punish him. “It is shocking and deplorable that a political detenu should be treated in this fashion. I urge you to look into the conditions in which he is being held and ensure that he is moved to a more hygienic facility pending his bail,” Karat wrote to Shah.

Another shocking example is that of Varavara Rao. He is 81 years old, is extremely fragile and yet not only has he been denied bail, but he was even discharged just after three days from the well-equipped JJ Hospital and brought back to the jail in spite of his alarmingly deteriorating health condition. This is nothing but denying him the right to live. Sudha Bharadwaj, who is 60 years old, suffers from diabetes, hypertension, asthma and has a history of TB. Sixty-two-year-old Soma Sen, who suffers from high blood pressure, severe arthritis, IBS and glaucoma, has been unfairly denied bail.

Even applications for temporary bail for the period of the pandemic because of the real danger to their lives have been rejected because of objections being raised by the NIA. Clearly there is no logical reason to deny all the accused bail since they are always available for interrogation as and when required. At least for the period of the pandemic, their bail applications should not be opposed by the NIA.

It is extremely unfortunate that at a time when even the Supreme Court has taken note of the dangerous situation for undertrials in prisons at the time of the pandemic and issued instructions to governments to “decongest jails”, in this case, those who are most vulnerable because of their health conditions are being denied bail and in the case of Gautam Navlakha being kept in a facility which will ensure the deterioration of his health.

“Vindictive political actions against those who have served the poor and marginalised bring no credit to any government. This is even more alarming in view of the rising numbers of prison inmates and police personnel testing Covid-19 positive in Mumbai prisons. I hope you will consider the issues raised here and take appropriate action,” the CPI(M) leader wrote.