Varavara Rao, the 81-year-old Telugu poet and an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, was admitted to JJ Hospital in Mumbai on Thursday, the Hindustan Times reported. Taloja Jail authorities said Rao was being treated at the medical facility within the jail over the last three days, but was shifted to hospital after his condition did not improve.
“Rao has been sent to JJ Hospital,” an unidentified senior Indian Administrative Service officer said. “He has multiple ailments and a series of tests were recommended for him at the hospital. We will know the nature of his ailments only after we get the test results.”
Rao’s family members told Scroll.in that he was admitted to hospital on Thursday, but that this was not mentioned at his bail hearing. Without being informed of this, the court set the next date of hearing for June 2.
Rao’s daughter Pavana said they had last spoken to him around May 14 or 15, and in total had spoken to him only thrice during lockdown, for periods of around two minutes each. During each call, Rao detailed the poor conditions of the prison, especially during the coronavirus outbreak. Cells had up to 30 prisoners in them, and each prisoner was given only two buckets of water a day for all purposes including bathing and drinking during the summer heat. Rao also feared that bringing new prisoners to Taloja jail exposed many senior citizens and those with comorbidities to the risk of coronavirus.
In April, a court in Mumbai had rejected temporary bail plea of activists Varavara Rao and Shoma Sen, both accused in the Elgar Parishad case. In their bail plea, the activists said they were suffering from multiple ailments and were vulnerable to coronavirus because of their age and medical history.
The activists had said they fall in the high-risk group as it has been found that older people with underlying medical conditions such as cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes and respiratory problems are more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. However, the court rejected their arguments, saying they cannot be released as they have been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Rao then moved the special National Investigation Agency court in Mumbai, seeking interim bail. In his application, he said he suffered from piles, prostate enlargement, coronary artery disease, oedema, hypertension, sinusitis, migraine and vertigo. The court will hear this plea on June 2.
Bhima Koregaon and Elgar Parishad cases
On January 1, 2018, violence erupted between Dalits and Marathas near the village of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra’s Pune district, where lakhs of Dalits had converged to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon. Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting for the British Army defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire in the battle in 1818. This happened a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the battle. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits on January 2.
The Pune police conducted raids on several activists in April 2018, followed by two rounds of arrests that targeted 10 activists. On June 6, 2018, they arrested Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut from Nagpur, Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai, and Rona Wilson from Delhi. On August 28, 2018, the police arrested five more activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha.
By this time, the accusations against the activists had grown from inciting the violence in Bhima Koregaon to alleged involvement in a nationwide “Maoist” conspiracy to destabilise democracy, overthrow the government by setting up an “anti-fascist front” and plotting to assassinate Narendra Modi. All of the activists were labelled as “urban Naxalites” and accused of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The two cases were being investigated by the Pune Police, but earlier this year, the Centre transferred the Elgar Parishad inquiry to the National Investigation Agency.
On Friday, the special NIA court in Mumbai rejected the interim bail plea of Sudha Bhardwaj. Bharadwaj had sought temporary bail on medical grounds in view of the health crisis following the coronavirus outbreak.