Elgar case: Arrested activists routinely denied medical treatment, family members say

PTI, September 11, 2022, 09:43 IST

Family members of activists arrested in Elgar Parishad’s Maoist links case say they were “systematically” denied medical treatment and that activist Vernon Gonsalves’ condition was another act of “criminal negligence” by prison authorities.

Gonsalves, arrested for his alleged role in the case, was recently admitted to JJ Government Hospital in Mumbai.

According to his lawyer, the activist had been diagnosed with dengue fever and was on oxygen.

The case concerns alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police say sparked violence the following day near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial on the outskirts from the city.

One person was killed and several others were injured in the violence.

The case, in which more than a dozen activists and academics were named as defendants, was first investigated by Pune police and then taken up by the National Investigation Agency.

In a press note published on Saturday, family members of these arrested activists called for state intervention in the functioning of prison authorities to ensure prompt treatment for all “political prisoners”.

Citing Gonsalves’ medical condition, the press note claimed that medical treatment had been delayed and that it was another act of “criminal negligence” by authorities at Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai, where he was being held.

“Gonsalves (65) had a fever on August 30, and although his condition steadily deteriorated, he was treated with just paracetamol and antibiotics in prison for almost a week. After many pleas, he was taken to JJ Hospital on September 7 and received oxygen support,” the note read.

“However, instead of continuing his treatment, he was abruptly taken back to prison where his condition continued to worsen. It was only after his lawyer and his wife, Susan Abraham, approached the court and obtained an order that prison authorities finally admitted him to the emergency room of JJ Hospital, where he is still undergoing treatment,” he said.

The press note cited the recent deaths of several prisoners on trial, including father Stan Swamy, after they were allegedly denied prompt medical attention.

“It has been just over a year since Father Stan Swamy, also accused in the Elgar case, died while still a prisoner after being denied prompt treatment following COVID-19,” he said. he declares. “Similarly, it was only very recently that we learned of the shocking news of the death of Pandu Narote, a 33-year-old Adivasi, in Nagpur Jail where he was convicted on various UAPA charges of having links with the Maoists,” the note said.

Narote’s lawyer also alleged that his death was caused by gross negligence by prison authorities, according to the memo.

Speaking about poet-activist Varavara Rao, another defendant in the case, the press note says he too was subjected to inhumane treatment in prison where he was denied proper medical care despite his age and various ailments serious.

It was only last month that he was able to obtain medical bail from the Supreme Court.

The other defendants in the case were also systematically denied medical treatment, the memo said. Their family members are demanding immediate and urgent state intervention in the running of the prisons to ensure prompt treatment for all ‘political prisoners’ such as Gautham Navlakha, Dr Hany Babu and others, says Note.

“We also demand the immediate release of political prisoners who have been languishing in prison as defendants for years. If the state is unable to guarantee their safety and security in prison, it would be better for the courts to intervene to grant bail to these political prisoners so that their precious lives are saved,” he said.

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