A total of one hundred and forty five eminent scholars and academicians from around the world have appealed for the immediate release of 81-year-old Telugu poet, literary critic Varavara Rao, who tested positive for Covid-19 and has been accused of inciting caste-based violence at Bhima Koregaon which took place on January 1, 2018 along with 10 other activists and academicians.
Philosopher and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky, who is also Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics emeritus, MIT, english economist Barbara Harriss White, Emeritus Professor and Fellow Wolfson College, Oxford University and Dr Hugo Gorringe, Co-Director Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK are amongst the 145 eminent scholars who have sought immediate release of all the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
The statement reads-
"Varavara Rao, poet, writer, activist and long-time speaker of truth to power has been imprisoned for two years now, along with ten other scholar-activists. They have been charged with inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon, a charge widely regarded as false, and over the past two years the government has failed to bring the charges to court and start the trial. Conditions in the jails in which these prisoners of conscience have been kept are said to be unhealthy and the threat of spread of infection has grown. Mr Rao, who is 80 years old*, has now tested positive for COVID-19 and is seriously ill with several comorbidities. His condition suggests clear neglect of his health by the authorities. We join other international scholars in appealing for the immediate release of Varavara Rao and the other Elgar Parishad activists."
*Rao is 81-years-old, as confirmed by his immediate family.
Rao's lawyers have filed applications seeking bail on multiple occasions on medical grounds but it has been rejected every single time. The octogenarian was also arrested during the Emergency imposed in 1975 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, under the Maintenance of internal Security Act (MISA) on charges of inciting violence through his writing.
Along with journalist and human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, lawyer and unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer and dalit rights activist Surendra Gadling, activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Rona Wilson, Assistant Professor Of English at Nagpur University Shoma Sen, tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut, academic Vernon Gonsalves, scholar and writer Anand Teltumbde, lawyer and activist Arun Ferreira and Rao have all been accused of having maoist links and booked under the newly amended and more stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Rao who was shifted to Nanavati Hospital from the state run St.George's hospital on Sunday, reportedly fell at St.George's and injured his head severely. But the family was not informed about the said incident and got to know from newspaper reports. In a press release today, Rao's family demanded directions to the hospital administration or prison administration to provide transparent, official updates on his health and the line of treatment being administered to him on a regular basis once or twice in a day as long as he is in the hospital.