Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday ordered an inquiry into Taloja Jail authorities’ refusal to accept a package containing activist Gautam Navlakha’s spectacles. The 70-year-old civil rights campaigner is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Deshmukh made the announcement on Twitter. “Bhima-Koregaon case accused Gautam Navlakha [was] denied spectacles by jail authorities as they refused to accept [a] parcel sent by his family,” he wrote. “I have ordered an inquiry in this matter.”
The minister added that the situation should have been handled humanly. “Such incidents need to be avoided in future,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Bombay High Court had also taken note of jail authorities at the Mumbai prison refusing to accept the package sent by Navlakha’s family. The court noted that “humanity is most important” and also emphasised on the need to sensitise the prison staff.
Navlakha’s partner Sabha Hussain had on Monday said that his spectacles were stolen in jail on November 27 and he needed a new pair urgently. Hussain added that she sent new spectacles to Navlakha, but the jail authorities refused to accept the parcel when it was delivered on December 5.
She had said that Navlakha suffered from from several ailments and was “close to blind” without his spectacles.
The denial of essentials to undertrials in the Bhima Koregaon case has evoked outrage on social media. Activist Stan Swamy, who has been arrested in the same case, had also struggled to get a straw and sipper in jail. The 83-year-old tribal rights activist suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
Swamy had filed an application before a special court on November 6 to get the essential supplies. The National Investigation Agency had sought 20 days to reply to Swamy’s plea. But on the date of the hearing, the agency informed the court that it did not have his straw or sipper and even denied confiscating it.
A huge campaign was then launched by social media users to send sippers and straws to Swamy. On November 29, Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Chhering Dorje informed the media that Swamy had been given a sipper.
Telugu poet Varavara Rao is another undertrial suffering from an acute medical condition. On November 18, the Bombay High Court had directed Taloja Jail authorities to shift him to Nanavati Hospital for 15 days, saying that he was almost on his deathbed.
The NIA took over the investigation in the Bhima Koregaon case from the Pune Police in January. All the accused in the case are booked for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial on January 1, 2018.