Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao, who was imprisoned in Mumbai’s Taloja jail in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, was on Monday moved to hospital. Thousands of people had urged the authorities over the past few days to ensure he got medical care amid reports of his deteriorating health, especially given the coronavirus crisis.
Sir JJ Hospital Dean Dr Ranjeet Mankeshwar confirmed to The New Indian Express that the 81-year-old poet is being evaluated by doctors at the facility.
Rao has been lodged at the jail since his arrest on August 31, 2018, and is still awaiting trial. On Sunday, Rao’s family held a press conference at which they expressed grave concern about his failing health.
Rao’s family had said the poet’s health has been a cause of worry for over a month now. They said that their last telephone conversation with Rao, on July 11, had only increased their fears. A fellow inmate had informed the family that Rao was not in a position to even walk by himself. He needed assistance in carrying out daily chores such as brushing his teeth and going to the toilet. He was hallucinating and spoke about his father’s funeral, an event that took place 75 years ago, the family said.
Rao’s daughter Pavana said her father suffered from electrolyte imbalance as per medical reports, which could be fatal if not treated.
Earlier in the day, at least 2,000 citizens had appealed to the Maharashtra government to ensure that Rao got immediate medical care. “Nothing under law allows the state to endanger the life of an 81-year-old person in the face of this dreaded pandemic,” they said in a petition.
The People’s Union for Democratic Rights had also expressed shock at the poet’s deteriorating health condition, and called for him to immediately be released. The organisation accused the jail administration of failing to take care of those in custody. On Sunday, a group of four civil society members – historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, and academic Satish Deshpande – demanded that Rao be immediately moved to a hospital.
In April, eminent personalities from across the country had called for Rao’s immediate release. The letter, submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was signed by several artistes, including poet and lyricist Gulzar.
Activists Gautam Navlakha, Shoma Sen and Rao are among the people who are accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered violence at the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.