Bhima Koregaon accused Hany Babu denied eye treatment, family says, Taloja jail refutes claim

New Delhi: The family of Delhi University Associate Professor Hany Babu, who is standing trial in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case and is lodged in Taloja Central Jail near Navi Mumbai, has alleged that he is being denied treatment for an acute eye infection. Jail authorities have, however, denied the allegation and said he was taken to hospital for a second time Wednesday.

Speaking to ThePrint, Hany Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena, who teaches at DU’s Miranda House, said he had first complained about the eye infection to the prison authorities on 3 May. “He was taken to the Civil Hospital, Vashi, only on 7 May. The medication he was given there hasn’t been working, and we have made repeated requests to the authorities to take him to the hospital again, but they still haven’t taken him. Even now, we don’t have any information on whether he has been taken to the hospital or not,” Rowena said.

However, Taloja jail superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar told ThePrint: “We have already sent him for a check-up today. He has not been denied any treatment. We had earlier taken him to the ophthalmologist on 7 May as well when he was given medicines.”

But this claim was denied by Babu’s lawyers, who said they had received no information about him being taken to a hospital Wednesday.

“Between 3 and 6 May, Hany Babu himself told the jail authorities multiple times about his infection and tried to get himself treated, but to no avail. Since 6 May, we have sent two emails, and called the superintendent and authorities 13 times to request them to take him to the hospital, but we still don’t have any information on him being taken there,” said a member of Babu’s legal team, who did not wish to be named.

The lawyer added that the authorities had been promising since 10 May to take him to hospital. “On 10 May, we were told that they have sent a requisition request for guards to take him to hospital on 11 May. After five calls on that day, we were told that he hasn’t been taken to the hospital, and maybe taken today.”

ThePrint approached Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil and MoS Home Satej Patil through phone calls for a comment, but did not receive any response.

‘Infection got worse’

The family has also alleged that the infection has got worse due to delay in treatment. “He has little or no vision in his left eye due to the swelling, which has spread to the cheek, ear and forehead, compromising other vital organs as well, and posing a significant risk to his life if it spreads to the brain. He is in agonising pain and is unable to sleep or perform daily chores,” said a statement issued by the family Tuesday.

Rowena also alleged that Babu does not have access to clean water to help treat his eye. “There is a water shortage in the prison; he doesn’t have access to clean water to bathe his eyes. He is being given soiled towels to dress his eyes, which is only making it worse,” she told ThePrint.

Superintendent Kurlekar, however, denied any such crisis. “There are no such problems in the jail. He is getting clean water access; the family is saying what they want,” he said.

This is not the first time that an accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case has alleged denial of medical treatment — lawyers for Gautam Navlakha, Father Stan Swamy and Anand Teltumbde had also made similar claims in the past.

Swamy, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was allegedly denied a straw sipper, while Navlakha was allegedly denied access to spectacles. Other accused Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen, lodged in Mumbai’s Byculla Women’s jail, have also raised health issues.

Covid concerns

With Maharashtra clocking the highest Covid-19 cases in the country, Hany Babu’s family is also concerned about him contracting the virus.

“The jail is very crowded. At least 40 people stay together in one hall. If one person contracts the virus, there will be a severe outbreak in the jail. Some people said eye infection can be a Covid symptom, but we don’t know for sure,” said Rowena.

Babu’s lawyers acknowledged the Covid threat, but said they were focussing on getting his eye treated first. “He got a rapid antigen test done, which came back negative, and then an RT-PCR test done on 7 May. We are assuming that it is negative because high court rules ordain that prison authorities have to inform us if any inmate is positive,” said the anonymous lawyer quoted above.

“While there is a Covid threat, since he is not showing any other symptoms, our focus is to get his eye infection treated,” the lawyer added.

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