Ten of the activists arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case on Thursday alleged that an official at the Taloja jail in Mumbai scanned and kept copies of the letters that they wrote to their families and lawyers, The Hindu reported.
Anand Teltumbde, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Sagar Gorkhe, Surendra Gadling and Ramesh Gaichor wrote to Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil to complain about this “illegal political censorship” in jail.
Sixteen people had been arrested for allegedly plotting caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. Fourteen of them remain jailed in Maharashtra, charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, one of the accused in the case, died in custody in July this year after being repeatedly denied bail despite his frail health. Varavara Rao, an 81-year-old Telugu poet, was granted bail on medical grounds for six months in February.
The ten activists who wrote to the Maharashtra minister on Thursday said they believed that some of their letters were being shared with the prosecution, according to The Hindu. “All this in addition causes inordinate delay in dispatch of letters to their destination,” they added.
The activists said Taloja Jail Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar had served a notice to Teltumbde, Gaichor and Ferreira for their writings in jail.
“Dr Anand [was a served notice] for two articles, Mr Gaichor for a poem as an obituary for cultural activist and Ambedarkite Vira Saathidar,” the activists said in their letter.
They added: “They were intimated that what they wrote was ‘objectionable, creating doubts relating to the investigation of Bhima Koregaon offences and propagating naxal ideology’,” the letter added.
Ferreira, Swamy’s cellmate, had written an account of his last days in jail. Scroll.in had published it on August 12.
The activists said the prison superintendent invoked a section of the Maharashtra Jail Manual, which “refrains the prisoner from writing any ‘matter likely to become the subject of political propaganda’.”
Pointing out that Bombay High Court had struck it down in 1992, the activists urged the minister to direct jail officials to stop censoring their letters.
Meanwhile, the official denied the accusations. “Why should I keep the letters?” Kurlekar told The Hindu. “What will I get out of them?”