Delhi University Professor Hany Babu, an undertrial prisoner in the Bhima Koregaon case, has tested positive for coronavirus and is admitted to JJ Hospital in Mumbai, his family said on Thursday.

Babu was earlier diagnosed with an acute eye infection, which his family said, could spread to his brain too. They have now demanded that he be shifted to a multi-specialty hospital where he can be treated for Covid-19 as well his eye.

In an earlier press statement, the family had alleged that Babu was first not provided with treatment. After he was eventually taken to a doctor on May 6, Babu was not taken for a follow-up which was advised.

On Thursday, Babu’s family said that he was admitted to JJ Hosputal on May 12 after his lawyer Payoshi Roy made multiple calls and sent an e-mail to the Taloja Jail, where he was lodged. On Thursday, Babu’s wife received a call from the jail informing her of him being admitted to the hospital. However, she was not told anything about Babu’s diagnosis or treatment, the family alleged.

“At about 7.30 pm [on Thursday], when Hany’s mother arrived at JJ Hospital to meet her son, she was informed by a nurse that Hany has tested Covid Positive,” the press statement said. “We are yet to receive any official information either from the prison or from the NIA. Despite requests we have not received any information regarding his CT count, his vital statistics and the results of any tests conducted.”

Babu, 54, a professor of language and linguistics at the Department of English at the university, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency on July 28, and has been in prison ever since. The investigating agency has claimed that Babu was a co-conspirator in the Bhima Koregaon case and had been “propagating” Maoist activities and ideology.

Noting the severity of the second wave of coronavirus, Babu’s family said that an ordinary Covid-19 hospital without a specialist ophthalmology department would not be enough to handle his situation. They expressed apprehension about leaving Babu “at the mercy of a system that treats under trial prisoners with such cruel indignity”.

Urging the Maharashtra government to shift Babu to a better hospital, the family said it was an injustice that he had to suffer “due to the negligence [of] state officials.”

“We are dealing with an opaque and callous system which is deaf to our cries and blind to our pain,” his family said in the statement.

Also read: A plea by Bhima Koregaon accused’s family reminds us how prisoners are routinely denied their rights

Bhima Koregaon case

Several activists and academicians have been jailed in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. They were 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 the violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial on the next day. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.

The first chargesheet was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018. The police claimed that those arrested 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 in February 2019, against human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy.

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

Eight people who have been named in the NIA chargesheet for the January 2018 violence are Hany Babu, former Indian Institute of Technology professor Anand Teltumbde, his brother Milind Teltumbde, Navlakha, three members of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch and human rights activist Stan Swamy. Milind Teltumbde has been named as an absconding accused and top operative of CPI (Maoist) in the chargesheet.