Sagar Gorkhe, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad violence case is on an indefinite hunger strike inside Taloja Central Prison to protest against an "apathetic administration" for denying basic facilities like enough of free water, timely medical attention and mosquito nets.
Gorkhe, who is lodged in Taloja since September 2020 along with several other accused in the case, has written to the State Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, the local police and also marked a complaint to the Special NIA Court hearing the case.
"Even today our basic human rights are being trampled over everyday in prison. It is because this situation has become absolutely unbearable that I must resort to an agonising hunger strike in protest," the accused says recalling the neglect that co-accused Fr Stan Swamy faced before his demise in custody on June 5, 2021.
For Gorkhe, the last nail in the coffin seems to be mosquito nets that were taken away from him and others during a regular security check despite a mosquito menace inside the prison. He submitted a complaint in this regard to the local Kharghar Police station.
Senior Journalist and Gorkhe's co-accused, Gautam Navlakha, wrote a similar complaint regarding mosquitoes to the Special NIA court, seeking permission to use a mosquito net. Navlakha expressed an apprehension of contracting malaria or dengue with the monsoons around the corner. He further said that the mosquito nets were taken away despite permission from the prison doctor.
Regarding medical aide, Gokhe claims that, "The prison Superintendent in alliance with the medical officials are obstructing access to medical care."
He adds that even after the court has passed orders regarding access to medical services from external hospitals, the superintendent and medical official resort to arbitrary decision making.
"My co-accused Gautam Navlakha, Ramesh Gaychor, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Anand Teltumbade, and Hany Babu are also afflicted with various illnesses and there has been intentional negligence in their treatment. The medicines (especially ayurvedic) provided by lawyers and families are not being accepted creating an overall state of helplessness."
Artificial Water Scarcity
One of Gorkhe's primary grievances is about inmates being pushed to purchase water from the canteen after receiving only 15 litres instead of the 135 litres that each inmate is entitled to according to the prison manual. This has resulted in a "reign of insanitation," he says.
Letters to Family Sent to Investigating Agencies
According to Gorkhe's letter, every letter sent to him and his co-accused have been illegally scanned by the jail officials and sent directly to investigation agencies, violating rights to privacy. Moreover, letters from family members reach them in unsealed conditions. "The books, accompanying papers, and stamps are sneakily stolen."
Fan and Basic Facilities in Visitors Rooms
Approximately 500 civilians (lawyers, family members) visit the Central prison to meet inmates daily. The process right from registration until meeting the inmate takes, Gorkhe claims. However, there is no waiting room or seating arrangements. Even clean drinking water, fans, or public toilets are not available. Therefore, he has sought for a clean visiting room to be set up for inmates.
Lastly, he has sought for resumption of phone facilities as it was available for all inmates during the Covid-19 pandemic. The service has recently been stopped for those accused of 'terrorist activities/ sedition / Naxalism / gang war / organised crime and habitual offenders.'
"To treat an accused as a convict until any accusation against them has been proven true is a violation of his fundamental human rights.. Hence, the circular issued by the Prisons and Correctional Services is deemed unjust," the letter says.
A call and message to Taloja Superintendent UT Pawar went unanswered. The story will be updated with his comment.
The National Investigation Agency has booked sixteen activists for offences under the UAPA and accused them furthering the banned CPI(Maoist) agenda to overthrow the government. The NIA claims that the Elgar Parishad event organised on December 31, 2017 by front organisations of CPIM was responsible for the violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018.
Gorkhe faces charges under sections 121, 121A, 124A, 153A, 505(1)(b), 117, 120b r/w 34 of the IPC and sections 13,16,17,18,18-B,20,38,39 and 40 of the UAPA along with 15 other activists. Father Stan Swamy, the 16th accused to be arrested, passed away on July 5.