Gautam Navlakha, 74, one of the many activists accused in the Bhima Koregaon case was not allowed to receive a new pair of spectacles after his old pair was stolen on 27 November in Taloja Central prison. The prison authorities did not accept the pair and returned the post instead.
In a court hearing on 8 December, the bench observed-
“Humanity is most important. Everything else will follow. Today we learnt about Gautam Navlakha’s spectacles. This is high time to conduct a workshop for even jail authorities,” – Justice Shinde
He also mentioned that such “small items” should not be denied. The authorities did not allow Navlakha to call his family until three days after the incident.
His partner, Ms.Husain told The Hindu, “He has a very high power number, about 6.5, and is almost blind without them. So, I immediately got a new one made and sent it by Speed Post, as the jail authorities do not accept courier, on December 3. I thought it would have reached by now so I tracked it online only to find that it reached the jail on December 5 but was returned on December 6.”
Navlakha was one of the many who were illegally arrested and detained by the police in relation to the Bhima Koregaon Case of 2018, where the police cracked down on activists and intellectuals after accusing them of having “Maoist Links.” Those arrested included the poet and writer Varavara Rao, lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj, academic and writer Vernon Gonsalves, and human rights activists like Arun Ferreira.
Inhumane treatment of Prisoners
This is not the first time that the illegally detained political prisoners have been subjected to such inhumane conditions.
Fr. Stan Swamy, 83, a tribal rights activist with Parkinson’s disease was denied the use of a sipper cup and straw initially by the Taloja Central Jail authorities. After massive backlash and campaigns, he was finally granted a straw, sipper cup, and warm clothes for the winter.
In the case of the 80-year-old Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao, the Bombay HC had to intervene in order for the Taloja Jail Authorities to shift him to the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai. He had also tested positive for Covid, and was found lying in a “pool of urine.”
All the activists were charged under the draconian UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) Law, which allows authorities to arrest anyone who may be seen as a threat to the nation.