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811 Days after arrest: The life and times of Varavara Rao

19 Nov 2020

On November 17, 2018, Dr P Varavara Rao was taken into custody for his alleged role in the Elgar Parishad Case, after spending 79 days under house arrest. So far he has spent 732 days in jail. The trial has not started.

His five bail applications have already been dismissed. When he first sought bail for participating in the death rituals of a family member, the Pune police challenged it on the grounds that Varavara Rao would abscond and that the Maoists would attack the police team. After taking over in January 2020, the NIA has consistently challenged his bail applications by stating a) that he has been accused of serious offences; b) by citing past examples of rejection of bail; c) by arguing that he was taking undue advantage of his age and of the prevailing Covid situation; d) and by insisting that he was stable and was under the best medical care. In the meantime, Varavara Rao had fallen unconscious, was tested Covid positive and has suffered serious metabolic and mental imbalances.

It bears thinking that even while the trial has not commenced, the State has spent significant energy in opposing bail pleas. That the courts have agreed with the State suggests that under UAPA bail is not only an impossibility, but that the application process provides a pretext for conducting a mock trial and for condemning the accused. Under UAPA, the punishment is doubly exacting as the process itself is a source of punishment and condemnation.

Varavara Rao’s sixth bail application has had a strange journey. It was listed before the High Court in mid-September, but nothing happened. When his wife, Hemlata Rao, approached the Supreme Court a month after, the apex court chose to not deliberate but to direct the High Court to do so. Finally, a week ago, the High Court ordered a virtual medical examination by doctors from Nanavati Hospital. On November 17, the State submitted a report in which it stated that Varavara Rao was “fully conscious, alert and oriented”. The doctors however stated that his catheter had not been changed for three months. Indira Jaisingh, Varavara Rao’s counsel told the court that he had neither been examined by a neurologist for his dementia, nor by an urologist for his urinary tract infection. On November 18 the High Court directed a two-week medical examination in Nanavati Hospital.

Let us be clear. Varavara Rao has not been granted bail; he has only been allowed the right to proper medical care which is not available inside Taloja Jail. It is also clear that the State  had submitted insufficient and hurriedly assembled medical documents in order to thwart the medical treatment of an undertrial prisoner who is 82 years old and who cannot stand on his feet.

Varavara Rao is the foremost revolutionary intellectual, poet and writer who has paid for his dissenting views from 1973 when he was first arrested for his revolutionary writings, and soon made an accused in the infamous Secunderabad Conspiracy Case which spanned 15 years from 1974-1989. Varavara Rao’s tryst with prison has been an unending saga as he has spent considerable time behind bars.

However, the Elgar Parishad Conspiracy has sought to undermine Varavara Rao’s constitutional right to life and is taking away his human right to dignity.

PUDR demands the immediate release of Varavara Rao. 

 

Radhika Chitkara

Vikas Kumar

(Secretaries, PUDR)

[email protected]