‘We Found Him Lying on Urine-Soaked Bed,’ Says Varavara Rao’s Family

‘We Found Him Lying on Urine-Soaked Bed,’ Says Varavara Rao’s Family

The 80-year-old poet-activist, whose health has been deteriorating since May-end in Taloja jail, has tested positive for COVID-19

Mumbai: The 79-year old poet, intellectual and activist, Varavara Rao, who has been imprisoned since 2018 in the controversial Bhima Koregaon case, has tested positive for COVID-19 at JJ Hospital in Mumbai.

Rao had been lodged in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja prison where his health had been deteriorating since the end of May. He was moved to JJ Hospital on the evening of July 13 for tests after his family members held an urgent press conference raising concerns over his health.

N Venugopal, Rao’s nephew, and a poet himself, said there was no official intimation to the family from the prison authorities. “Though it was mandatory to inform family about these developments, either government or jail, police, hospital authorities did not provide any official information to the family,” he said.

The relief of having Rao transferred to the hospital, though, was short-lived. On July 15, when his three daughters, Venugopal, and wife Hemalatha visited him in the hospital, they found him lying on a urine-soaked bed.

“The ward was stinking, and he was unattended,” said Venugopal on the evening of July 15.

The family had flown from Hyderabad that morning to see the ailing, frail Rao. On Thursday, things got worse. He tested positive for COVID-19.

The veteran poet has now been transferred to St George Hospital, a state-run COVID facility.

Henri Tiphagne, National Working Secretary of Human Rights Defenders Alert, has written to the National Human Rights Commission, to demand Rao’s transfer to a super speciality hospital, highlighting the negligence at JJ Hospital.

“On July 15, 2020, Mr. Rao’s wife, three daughters and nephew visited him in the JJ Hospital,” Henri’s letter read. “They were shocked to see that he was lying in the transit ward “like an orphan”. There were no attendants or nurses attending to him and only policemen standing a few metres away. Mr. Rao was lying in a pool of urine on the bed and was still incoherent. He did not recognise his wife or daughters immediately but took some time to recognise them. The family was told by the nurses that there was no equipment or treatment given in the transit ward. When his nephew tried to change his urine-soaked bed sheets, the family was thrown out by the hospital nurses.”

The family has been inconsolable for the past two days. “NHRC must see this as a case of Article 21 – Right to Life and immediately intervene,” the letter concluded.

Rao’s health has been deteriorating since the past month and a half. In a virtual press conference on July 12, the family of Rao pleaded to the authorities, “Don’t kill him in jail.”

The poet had fallen unconscious in jail on May 28, after which he was taken to JJ Hospital. However, he was hurriedly discharged on June 1. Since then, the family said, he has been hallucinating, delirious and struggling to be coherent. He was shifted to JJ Hospital the day after the press conference.

Over the past three weeks, Rao’s co-accused and human rights activist, Vernon Gonzales, had been assisting him in jail, for his inability to walk, brush or even go to the toilet on his own.

Rao testing positive for COVID-19 has put Gonzales at grave risk too. “Instead of releasing VV and saving his life at the end of March, they have put another person at risk,” said Susan Abraham, human rights lawyer and Gonzales’ wife.

Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus, human rights activists have been demanding decongestion of prisons in Maharashtra. As early as March 23, the Supreme Court had asked state governments to decongest prisons in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus inside the jail premises. The Maharashtra government, led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, subsequently constituted a high-power committee (HPC) to decide on the prisoners to be released.

There are 60 jails in Maharashtra with an official capacity of 24,030 inmates. As of March 2020, a total of 36,061 prisoners, or 150% of the ideal number, were lodged in prisons in the state. Overcrowded prisons are fertile ground for the spread of coronavirus.

But the decongestion process has gone nowhere in these months. On May 31, Maharashtra’s 60 prisons had 28,920 inmates. According to the data on June 19, that number stood at 28,950. In other words, 30 prisoners have instead been added in the 20 days of June.

In Taloja Central Prison, there were 2,186 inmates on May 31. On June 19, that number increased to 2,313. The original capacity of the prison is 2,134.

In an affidavit submitted to the High Court on June 15, the Inspector General of prisons and correctional services, Maharashtra, Sunil Ramanand, revealed that two prisoners had died in Taloja. Both were tested for coronavirus after they died. And both tested positive.

In a virtual admission of the virus having penetrated the prison, Ramanand’s affidavit read: “Mass swab testing of asymptomatic prison inmates may not be undertaken until express assurance of quarantine facility is given by the Municipal Commissioners/Collectors as many of the prisons in the state are overcrowded.”

Besides Rao and Gonzales, there are seven other activists and scholars lodged in the same prison, most of them aged above 60 years. They are Anand Teltumbde, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson and Vernon Gonzales.

These activists are booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and are accused of plotting the assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and of having links with banned Maoist outfits – charges that have been stoutly denied by all of them. Critics say the charges against them are politically motivated as they all have an exemplary reputation of speaking up for the deprived sections of the society.

https://www.newsclick.in/Varavara-rao-inhuman-conditions-in-hospital

The letter written by the Human Rights Defenders Alert to the NHRC over Varavara Rao’s situation in JJ Hospital, the human rights organisation

Coronavirus Updates: 14-day total lockdown in Odisha’s Ganjam, Khordha, Cuttack, Jajpur

The letter written by the Human Rights Defenders Alert to the NHRC over Varavara Rao’s situation in JJ Hospital, the human rights organisation quoted his family members as saying that he was “lying like an orphan” in the transit ward.

 The Human Rights Defenders Alert wrote a letter to the NHRC over the health condition of Varavara Rao in Mumbai’s JJ Hospital.

The letter said that the poet-activist took time to recognize his family members and added, “The family was told by the nurses that no equipment or treatment was given in the transit ward to the patient. When his nephew tried to change his urine-soaked bed sheets, the family was thrown out by the hospital staff.”

Poet-activist Varavara Rao, who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, tested positive for coronavirus, reports said on Thursday. On Monday, the 81-year-old had approached the Bombay High Court seeking temporary bail owing to his deteriorating medical condition and the COVID-19 pandemic but was denied.

“Rao, another activist Anand Teltumbde and eight other activists were arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case, which was initially probed by the Pune police and later transferred to the National Investigation Agency in January. The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on 31 December, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.,” News18 reported.

https://www.firstpost.com/health/coronavirus-updates-14-day-total-lockdown-in-odishas-ganjam-khordha-cuttack-jajpur-8601621.html

Varavara Rao tests positive

Varavara Rao tests positive

80-year-old Telugu poet and human rights activist shifted to St George’s Hospital.

Telugu poet and human rights activist Varavara Rao, 80, on Thursday tested positive for Covid-19 at JJ Hospital where he was shifted on Monday from Taloja jail due to health issues.

Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, was late in the evening admitted to St George’s Hospital, a Covid-care facility.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (HRDA) India, a rights group, has made serious allegations against JJ Hospital administration for ignoring Varavara Rao while he was admitted there. They alleged that Rao was found by his family members to be lying in inhuman conditions in a pool of urine in the transit ward of JJ Hospital in Mumbai.

The Dean of JJ Hospital Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar, however, refused the charges. “We were attending him properly and this is not the case,” he said.

The HRDA in a statement on July 15, said, “Mr Rao’s wife, three daughters and nephew visited him in the JJ Hospital Mumbai. They were shocked to see that he was lying in the transit ward ‘like an orphan; Mr Rao was lying in a pool of urine on the bed and was still incoherent. He did not recognise his wife or daughters immediately but took some time to recognise him. There were no attendants or nurses attending him, and only policemen standing a few metres away. The family was told by the nurses that no equipment or treatment was given in the transit ward to the patient. When his nephew tried to change his urine soaked bed sheets, the family was thrown out by the hospital staff.”

National Working Secretary of HRDA, Henri Tiphange, told Mirror that he has appealed to National Human Rights Commission to admit Mr Rao in a private hospital. “I am hoping that NHRC would soon give directions in this regard,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, JJ Hospital Dean, Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar, said that Varavara Rao had contracted coronavirus. “We are moving him to another hospital as JJ Hospital is a non-Covid hospital. He is otherwise stable,” Dr Mankeshwar said.

https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/coronavirus/news/varavara-rao-tests-positive/articleshow/77009713.cms

‘Terrible Injustice’: Twitter Cries Foul as Jailed Poet Varavara Rao Tests Positive For COVID-19 After Being Found on Urine-Soaked Bed

‘Terrible Injustice’: Twitter Cries Foul as Jailed Poet Varavara Rao Tests Positive For COVID-19 After Being Found on Urine-Soaked Bed

80-year-old poet-activist Varavara Rao had been experiencing deteriorating health conditions in prison but was denied bail. Twitter left outraged as news of him testing positive for COVID-19 surfaces after being found lying on a urine-soaked bed

Accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, 80-year-old poet-activist Varavara Rao was arrested for alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017. In prison for 22 months, Rao’s family had released a press release outlining the poet’s ailing condition and asked authorities to not “kill Varvara Rao in jail” after he had been repeatedly denied bail

As two cases of coronavirus were reported earlier from Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai where Rao was with eight other activists arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case, concerns regarding his deteriorating health gained momentum. On July 13, Rao was finally moved to JJ Hospital but according to N Venugopal, Rao’s nephew, “either government or jail, police, hospital authorities did not provide any official information to the family.”

When Venugopal visited Rao in the hospital on July 15, along with the Telugu poet’s wife and three daughters, they found him lying on a urine-soaked bed. The worst came on Thursday when Rao tested positive for COVID-19.

While the family was inconsolable, National Working Secretary of Human Rights Defenders Alert – Henri Tiphagne demanded Rao’s transfer to a super speciality hospital. He wrote to the National Human Rights Commission, “On July 15, 2020, Mr. Rao’s wife, three daughters and nephew visited him in the JJ Hospital. They were shocked to see that he was lying in the transit ward “like an orphan”. There were no attendants or nurses attending to him and only policemen standing a few metres away. Mr. Rao was lying in a pool of urine on the bed and was still incoherent. He did not recognise his wife or daughters immediately but took some time to recognise them. The family was told by the nurses that there was no equipment or treatment given in the transit ward. When his nephew tried to change his urine-soaked bed sheets, the family was thrown out by the hospital nurses.”

The COVID-19 positive report was the last straw which jolted Twitter into a digital rebellion in support of the “rebel poet”. While one lashed, “Pragya Thakur got bail stating health reasons. But the repeated pleas of Varavara Rao went unheard, not just because of the unjustified charge on him, but because he’s a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary poet. But this is nothing short of institutional murder (sic)”, another tweeted, “After Akhil Gogoi, now Varavara Rao tests positive for COVID-19. Due to corona,in March Supreme Court asked states to release some prisoners. But govt didn’t release political prisoners. Do they have to pay with their lives for dissenting? #FreeVaravaraRao (sic)”

Another co-accused in Bhima Koregaon case, 61-year-old Vernon Gonsalves, is at a risk of contracting the virus as he constantly assisted Rao inside the prison since he was unable to walk, go to the toilet or brush his teeth on his own after he fell unconscious in jail on May 28 and was hallucinating, delirious and struggling to be coherent ever since. Anand Teltumbde, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Sudhir Dhawle and Rona Wilson are other activists in the same jail, booked under UAPA apart from Rao and Gonsalves.

https://www.india.com/viral/terrible-injustice-twitter-cries-foul-as-poet-varavara-rao-tests-positive-for-covid-19-after-being-found-on-urine-soaked-bed-in-jail-4087892/

 

Condemn the misuse of law to stifle freedom of the press in Varanasi

Condemn the misuse of law to stifle freedom of the press in Varanasi

Jointly submitted by (In alphabetical order)

All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM)

Mr. Bezwada Wilson, Ramon Magsaysay Award 2016 Recipient

Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network (DHRDNet)

Dr. Ruth Manorama, National Federation of Dalit Women

Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA)

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR)

National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ)

People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space (PCSDS)

Shelter City Netherlands: Call for temporary relocation in 2020

Shelter City Netherlands: Call for temporary relocation in 2020

Justice and Peace Netherlands is launching a new call for human rights defenders at risk to participate in the Shelter City initiative around March 2020. The deadline to apply is 29 November 2019.  

Shelter City offers human rights defenders (HRDs) at risk a possibility for rest and respite by letting them escape temporarily from a threatening situation. The initiative can benefit human rights defenders that are threatened or under intense pressure due to their work. Shelter City is an initiative coordinated by Justice and Peace Netherlands together with  municipalities in the Netherlands, local partners, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How does Shelter City work?

Through temporary relocation, human rights defenders will be offered a shelter for 3 months in one of the Shelter Cities in the Netherlands, during which they can rest, continue their work in safety, build up capacity (including compulsory training on holistic security), extend their network and raise awareness about the situation in their country. Activities can include meetings with NGOs and public officials, public lectures, rest or leisure, treatment for work-related problems, continuing working remotely on human rights in their country, raising awareness of human rights with the Dutch public or participating in local initiatives organised by the municipality and/or the host organisation. At the end of the programme, participants are expected to return with new tools and energy to continue their work at home. A monthly stipend sufficient to cover costs of living, accommodation, health insurance, visa and return flight tickets to the Netherlands are provided. In addition, participants receive personal accompaniment throughout their stay in the Netherlands.

Who can apply for Shelter City?

For the purposes of Shelter City, the term HRD is intended to refer to the broad range of activists, journalists, scholars, writers, artists, lawyers, civil rights defenders, independent media professionals, civil society members, and others working to peacefully advance human rights and democracy around the world.

Applicants must fulfil the following conditions:

In order to be eligible to the Shelter City programme, HRDs must meet the following conditions:

  1. They implement a non-violent approach in their work;
  2. They are threatened or otherwise under pressure due to their work;
  3. They should be able to be relocated for a period of maximum 3 months. Limited spots are available for people who are not able to stay for the full 3 months;
  4. They are willing and able to return to their country of origin after 3 months;
  5. They are willing to speak publicly about their experience or about human rights in their country to the extent that their security situation allows;
  6. They have a conversational level* of English (limited spots are available for French or Spanish speaking HRDs);
  7. They are willing and able to come to The Netherlands without accompaniment of family members;
  8. They have a valid passport (with no less than six months of validity) or be willing to carry out the procedures for its issuance. Justice and Peace covers the costs of issuing a passport and / or visa (if applicable);
  9. They are not subjected to any measure or judicial prohibition of leaving the country;
  10. They are willing to begin their stay in The Netherlands around March 2020. 

*By conversational English we mean that participants’ level of English allows them to actively participate in a training, speak about their work, communicate with the host city, etc.

Note that additional factors will be taken into consideration in the final round of selection, such as the added value of a stay in The Netherlands as well as gender, geographic, and thematic balance. Please note that we can only accept HRDs currently residing in a third country under exceptional circumstances.

To apply or submit the application of a human rights defender, please fill in the form by clicking ‘Apply Now’ below. Application forms must be completed by 29 November 2019, at 23:59 CET (Central European Time). An independent commission will select the participants.

Apply Now for Shelter City 2020

Note that the selected human rights defenders will not be automatically allowed into the Shelter City programme as Justice and Peace is not in control of issuing the required visas to enter the Netherlands.

For more information, please contact us at sheltercity@justiceandpeace.nl