"Today, our prisons are killing fields, where the poorest of the poor perish without prompt treatment and where prominent political prisoners have to move court for a right that is guaranteed to them by the constitution."Family and friends of the Bhima Koregaon accused
Family and friends of several accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, on Sunday, 11 September, released a note to the press, alleging negligence by prison authorities in providing adequate medical care to ailing and vulnerable inmates.
"In yet another act of criminal negligence, the prison authorities of Taloja Central Jail, Maharashtra, have delayed medical treatment to Vernon Gonsalves," they wrote and shared that it was only after a court order that the prison authorities admitted 65-year-old Gonsalves to the emergency ward of JJ hospital, where he is still under treatment.
According to the press note, Gonsalves fell ill with fever on 30 August, and despite the steady deterioration in his condition, he was merely treated with paracetamol and antibiotics in jail, for nearly a week. Then he was taken to JJ hospital ("after much pleading"), given oxygen support, and then "callously brought back to jail where his condition continued to worsen." Subsequently his lawyer had to approach the court to obtain the order which allowed his return to and treatment at the hospital.
On Saturday, Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) also released a statement demanding health facilities and immediate medical attention for jail inmates, amid the dengue diagnosis and Pneumonia concerns for Gonsalves.
'Prisoners Have the Unalienable Right to Healthcare': Kin of Bhima Koregaon Accused
Further, the statement by the kin of the Bhima Koregaon accused points out out that another accused in the case, Gautam Navlakha "is also being denied proper checkups for his dental treatments, allergy attacks and skin rashes" and "more worryingly, Navlakha who is supposed to undergo colonoscopy every two years, has not been taken for the same, though he is at high risk for stomach cancer..."
"He was also denied his medical records in spite of a court order," the letter adds.
Lamenting the demise of co-accused Father Stan Swamy, as well as recent death of Pandu Narote (a convict in a different UAPA case), the statement reads:
"Both international treaties and prison manuals in India are clear about the fact that prisoners have the unalienable right to health care, including the right to not contract diseases in prison. However, the overcrowding of prisons in India, mainly due to the high number of undertrials, has led to prisons becoming hazardous to the life and health of its inmates. In addition to this, we see prison authorities behaving with absolute impunity by refusing to accord treatment in time, thereby leading to severe complications in many sick prisoners, and often, even death."
The signatories also express concern over the deteriorating condition of Dr GN Saibaba and the disturbing case of Atiqur Rahman – convict and accused (respectively) in different UAPA cases, who are suffering a steady decline in their health and require specialist attention.
They point out that "it is only very recently that seven human rights organisations including Amnesty, had come out with a statement on the deteriorating condition of Dr G N Saibaba, who is suffering from multiple ailments such as a heart condition, a cyst in the brain, breathing problems and hypertension, most of which need specialist attention, which is not being provided by the jail authorities."
"It is the primary responsibility of the state, the courts, and most importantly, the prison authorities, to take care of the health and life of the inmates who are under their custody. Yet, as per The National Crime Records Bureau, thousands of prisoners perish in Indian jails, with simple infections turning to septicemia and curable fevers leading to fatalities as in the case of Pandu Narote."Family and friends of the Bhima Koregaon accused
What Family & Friends of Bhima Koregaon Accused Seek
The signatories, thereby, seek:
The state immediately and urgently intervene in the functioning of prisons so as to ensure speedy treatment for all prisoners, thereby preventing complications and death
Speedy treatment for political prisoners such as Dr G N Saibaba, Atikur Rahman, Gautham Navlakha and Dr Hany Babu (who still suffers from a blurred vision that began after he contracted an extremely serious eye infection post COVID for which too his lawyers had to approach the courts to ensure treatment)
A mechanism for providing speedy bail to the undertrials who fill Indian prisons, "given that the overcrowding of prisons, and shortage of staff to provide escorts is one of the main reasons that is leading to such negligence regarding the health of prisoners"
Immediate release of political prisoners who are languishing in jail as undertrials for years
"If the state is incapable of guaranteeing their safety and security in prison, it would be better that the courts intervene to grant bail to these political prisoners, so that their precious lives are saved," they add.
Signatories of the statement include:
Susan Abraham (wife of Vernon Gonsalves)
Jennifer Ferriera (wife of Arun Ferriera)
Roy Wilson (brother of Rona Wilson)
Pranali Parab (sister of Ramesh Gaichor)
Minal Gadling (wife of Surendra Gadling)
Rama Ambedkar (wife of Anand Teltumbde)
Sahba Hussain (partner of Gautam Navlakha)
Sharad Gaikwad (friend of Sudhir Dhawle)
Monali Raut (sister of Mahesh Raut)
Fr Joe Xavier (friend of Fr. Stan Swamy)
Dr Jenny Rowena (wife of Dr Hany Babu)
Surekha Gorakhe (mother of Sagar Gorakhe)
'Active Bias Against Political Prisoners': PUDR
PUDR, in their letter allege “active bias against political prisoners” and that the “pattern of medical negligence, a facet of state oppression against political prisoners is all too familiar.”
“In this context, though Vernon and the others have been forced to go to Court to get medical attention, paradoxically the cases have brought to light the despicable lack of medical facilities for prisoners. One wonders about the unknown many with no access to the courts who have suffered, even died for want of medical aid,” the PUDR letter adds, as it demands:
The release of all undertrials in the Bhima Koregaon case
Prosecution of the superintendent who was allegedly responsible for Stan Swamy’s death
An inquiry into medical negligence by the Jail staff.
Providing proper health facilities and immediate medical attention to jail inmates.
Decongestion of Taloja Jail
Protecting the rights of political prisoners