28-year-old activist Atikur Rahman, who was arrested in October 2020 along with journalist Siddique Kappan and two others, has become “partially-paralysed” and “highly disoriented”, his family and lawyer have claimed.
Rahman, a heart patient, is presently admitted at Lucknow’s King George's Medical University (KGMU) hospital. “He can’t move his left side, and he is even struggling to recognise me. He sometimes remembers who I am but then soon forgets again. It’s a very scary situation,” his wife Sanjida Rahman told The Quint.
Since 2002, Rahman has been suffering from a heart ailment called aortic regurgitation, in which the heart’s aortic valve does not close tightly. In November 2021, after an urgent plea was moved by Rahman’s family in the Allahabad High Court, he was taken for heart surgery in AIIMS, Delhi. However, he hasn’t been given proper post-surgery care in the jail due to which his condition has worsened, the family alleges.
'Didn't Get Proper Care In Jail After Heart Surgery'
Rahman was arrested along with Kappan, another activist Masood Ahmad, and their driver, Mohammed Alam on 5 October 2020 in Mathura when the group was on its way to Hathras to meet the family of a Dalit rape and murder victim. The four of them were arrested, and subsequently charged with the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as well as IPC sections of sedition and promoting enmity between groups. Last month, on 23 August, the driver Mohammed Alam was granted bail after 22 months of imprisonment; the other accused are still in jail.
Just a few days prior to his arrest, Rahman’s family had managed to complete saving the money required to meet the cost of his heart surgery scheduled for November. Rahman was an activist as well as a PhD student at Meerut’s Chaudhary Charan Singh University. He was active in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests.
Lodged in the Mathura jail, Rahman’s health kept deteriorating and in October 2021, a court ordered that Rahman be taken to AIIMS for his surgery. In November that year, Rahman’s family filed an urgent plea in the Allahabad high court asking for his shift to the hospital to be expedited. Finally, Rahman managed to get his surgery done that month.
“But since it’s a serious ailment, there needed to be regular follow-ups with the doctor, maintenance of hygiene in the jail, dietary restrictions that had to be met. None of this was taken care of,” says Shekhawat, Rahman’s father-in-law.
In response to the allegations, Ashish Tiwari, senior superintendent of the Lucknow district jail said that “allegations are the easiest thing to throw.”
“I don’t know the details of the case...the doctors in the jail look after the prisoners. But the prisoner had a history of illness from well before he was arrested,” he told The Quint.
'Left Side Completely Gone...'
After Rahman’s heart surgery in November last year, a list of post-surgery instructions was mentioned in his discharge letter, seen by The Quint. These included following dietary restrictions as well as visiting OPD “at one week, one month, three months, six months, one year and yearly.”
In March 2022, the Mathura jail authorities wrote to Rahman’s family informing them that he is being urgently taken to AIIMS Delhi because he has complained of chest pains. “This was because of an emergency situation where he began having severe chest ache...but these visits to AIIMS should be scheduled and take place regularly and not wait for him to fall severely ill,” Saifan, Rahman’s lawyer told The Quint.
In April 2022, Rahman was moved from the Mathura jail to the Lucknow district jail.
Last month, on 28 August, Rahman’s advocates filed an application in Lucknow’s special court for PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) to issue directions for providing “procedural medical check-up/treatment and further medical advice in AIIMS New Delhi in accordance with the medical advice in the interest of justice.”
“The court in response didn’t direct the jail authorities to take him to AIIMS but asked them to do the needful as per the jail manual,” Saifan said.
On 29 August, the Lucknow district jail authorities sent a letter to Rahman’s family in Muzaffarnagar informing them that he is being admitted to KGMU and that the family should come there soon in order to take care of him.
“He began puking and his condition worsened on the way to the hospital,” Manoj Tiwari, the chief jail warder of the Lucknow district jail told The Quint.
Rahman's family, however, says that he needed to be moved to AIIMS and not KGMU. “He has been treated by his doctors at AIIMS for years. Moreover, after the surgery, they required him to come there for regular consultations,” said Sanjida.
His brother, Mateen said that he has never seen Rahman's health deteriorate to this extent. "His left side is completely gone, he isn't being able to move or even talk coherently. Had he gotten treatment and care timely and regularly, this wouldn't have happened," said Mateen, who is presently visiting Rahman at the hospital.