The health condition of activist Gautam Navlakha deteriorated after he was shifted to the high-security barrack called the “Anda circle” in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja Jail, his partner Sahba Husain said on Sunday.
In a statement, Husain also said that the Bhima Koregaon case accused was not being allowed to make phone calls to his family members and lawyers.
“In the Anda circle, he is deprived of daily walks in the jail’s non-concreted greener areas and fresh air and his health has deteriorated further, making specialised medical care an absolute necessity, if he is to live to fight this unjust and false case hoisted on him,” Husain said.
The Bhima Koregaon case pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. Navlakha was among the people arrested for allegedly plotting the violence. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.
In September, the activist had moved the Bombay High Court seeking to be placed under house arrest. He had cited difficulty in staying in Taloja Jail due to his old age and the need to medically examine a lump on his chest.
On Sunday, Husain, a women’s right activist, said that Navlakha has faced his “unjustified incarceration with courage and spirit”.
“How much longer is he going to be persecuted for his views, and to what extent will the authorities go to break his spirit?” she asked.
Husain said that in a letter, Navlakha where had said that confinement in the “Anda circle” denied him of fresh air as there were no trees or plants in the open space of the barracks.
“We spend 16 hours out of 24 cooped inside our cell and the eight hours we are let out we are confined to a corridor for our daily walk on the cemented floor surrounded by high walls all around,” Navlakha said in the letter, according to Husain.
Husain added in the statement: “These are prisoners of conscience, who have had to face indignities and humiliation for the smallest needs, and wage court battles for basic dignities in prison,”
She was referring to an incident in November when Navlakha’s spectacles had gone missing. Husain sent him a new pair of glasses but the jail authorities refused to accept the parcel when it got delivered.
Husain’s statement on Sunday also referred to the death of tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, who died while awaiting bail on the health grounds.
“Stan, severely debilitated by Parkinson’s Disease, had to fight for such basic needs as a straw to drink, help to move to the toilet, and medical attention,” the statement said. “His simple desire was that in his declining state of health he should be allowed to die at home in Ranchi.”
In her statement, Husain also said that Navlakha’s telephone calls to her and his lawyers have been discontinued by the prison authorities “on the pretext that inmates can now be met in jail physically”.
She said that the activist’s defence as well as health condition will be severely compromised without the phone call.
Husain said she is over 70 years old and lives in Delhi and it is difficult for her to travel frequently to Mumbai to meet Navlakha in jail for the allotted time of ten minutes.
“Gautam’s only contact with me is through the two phone calls he was allowed every week to me that enabled me to send him articles of need, including medicines, books and so on,” she said. “With the discontinuance of phone calls, all this will now depend on letters that take a minimum of two weeks to reach me.”
She said that regular access to lawyers through phone calls is an essential facility for undertrial prisoners. “To deprive an undertrial prisoner of this effective and efficient mode of securing legal advice and help, or access to family, is the height of unfairness,” Husain added.