Lawyer Surendra Gadling, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, has alleged that the superintendent of Taloja Jail in Maharashtra has denied him access to his ayurvedic medicine, The Wire reported on Tuesday. Gadling has claimed that a trial court had allowed him to use the medicines.

Gadling has been in custody since June 2018 in connection with the case that pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune. He is among 16 people who were arrested for allegedly plotting the violence. In July, a United States-based digital forensics firm had found that evidence against Gadling was planted on his computer.

The lawyer suffers from hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disorder and other ailments, according to The Wire. He has written to Maharashtra Additional Director General of Prisons Atulchandra Kulkarni complaining against Taloja Jail superintendent UT Pawar for allegedly denying him the medicines.

In his letter, the lawyer said that his son had travelled from Nagpur to a court in Mumbai to give him his monthly supplies of medicines on November 23.

However, when Gadling returned to Taloja Jail from the court he was allegedly stopped at the entrance and was not allowed to take the medicines inside. The lawyer alleged that he was told that Pawar had asked the jail authorities to not allow ayurvedic medicines inside the prison premises.

“During the search [in jail], Baba [a prison staff] and jailor objected to ayurvedic medicines,” he alleged in the letter, according to The Wire. “I apprised them of the chief medical officer’s permission letter and court order... but they said we don’t acknowledge court orders or CMO’s [chief medical officer] permission, we only follow the superintendent’s orders.”

Gadling said that despite making several request to the jail authorities, he has been denied access to the medicines. The advocate said that he has been told that the prison officials “only follow Pawar’s orders”.

As a result, Gadling’s health condition has deteriorated, according to The Wire. In his letter, Gadling wrote that that his syncope condition has worsened. Syncope is a medical condition in which a person faints due to temporary drop in the amount of blood flow to the brain.

Gadling said that on November 24 he had injured his head after he fell in an unconscious state in the prison’s toilet. “The non-availability of medicines and hot water is posing a danger to my life,” he said.

The lawyer added that he has to make “constant negotiations” with the jail authorities to get a bucket of warm water to bathe during winters. His health condition makes it difficult for him to bathe in cold water, he said in the letter.

The accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case, most of whom are activists, lawyers and academics, have on several occasions alleged that they had been denied basic medical care in prison.

Tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, who had died in custody while awaiting bail on health grounds, had to wait for a month to get a sipper to drink water. Swamy suffered from Parkinson’s disease that made it difficult for him to hold a glass.

In October, Gautam Navlakha’s partner Sahba Husain had said that the activist’s health condition had deteriorated after he was shifted to the high-security barrack called the “Anda circle” of Taloja Jail. In November last year, Navlakha had lost his spectacles but the jail authorities had refused to accept a parcel containing a pair of glasses sent by Husain.

Activist Varavara Rao, who is 81 years old, was granted medical bail three months after he was hospitalised following the Bombay High Court’s observation that he was “almost on deathbed”.

Delhi University professor Hany Babu had to approach the court to get permission to be hospitalised to get treatment for an eye infection after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Bhima Koregaon case

The first chargesheet in the case was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Sudhir Wilson, Shoma Sen, and Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018.

The police claimed that they had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A supplementary chargesheet was filed later in February 2019, against Sudha Bharadwaj, poet Varavara Rao, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy. The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.

The Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, was defeated.