Elgar Parishad accused threatens hunger strike over conditions in jail

By Vidya / India Today

In memory of late Father Stan Swamy, a co-accused in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case in Pune, Sagar Gorkhe has written a letter to Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Waise Patil threatening to go on a “hunger strike unto death against the harassment from Taloja Central Jail’s apathetic administration.”

Stan Swamy had passed away in judicial custody. Though the Bombay High Court transferred him to a private hospital, by then it was too late, and he passed away due to post-Covid complications on July 5, 2021.

Gorkhe’s letter elaborated that the Elgar Parishad accused, many of whom are being held in the Navi Mumbai prison, are being treated unfairly by the jail authorities.

“Even today, our basic human rights are being trampled over every day in prison. It is because the situation has become absolutely unbearable that I must resort to an agonising hunger strike in protest,” the letter said.

The letter’s first demand is, “Please provide me and my co-accused from the Elgar Parishad case with immediate medical services and take action against medical officials for negligence in duty.”

The letter added, “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.”

Demand No. 2

The second demand in the letter refers to the scanning being done by administration and investigation agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately and that legal action be taken against the culprits in accordance with due process.

Demand No. 3

Third, the letter demands that the situation be resolved immediately “to the perversely orchestrated water shortage in the prison and its inhumane sale. Ensure that every inmate receives 135 litres of water as soon as possible, and that those responsible are held accountable.”

Gorkhe points out that the prison administration currently provides only one bucket, or 15 litres of water, to each inmate. This has resulted in sanitation issues, and Gorkhe claims that “along with several other inmates, I have been suffering from skin diseases, as well as an increased number of flies and mosquitoes during the summer.”

Gorkhe has also stated that there is no water, fans, or seating for relatives of inmates who travel long distances to see them. Thus, Gorkhe has demanded that a permanent visiting room be built immediately, as well as clean drinking water, sanitation, fans, and other amenities. An up-to-date token system should be put in place as soon as possible.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the mulakat system was implemented—allowing families and lawyers of accused people to meet the person in prison. Gorkhe was able to talk to and see his family. That, however, was recently stopped.

When Gorkhe inquired about the reasons for the abrupt termination, he was told that the service was for all inmates except those involved in ‘terrorist activities/sedition/naxalism/gang war/organised crime/habitual offenders.’

Gorkhe further said, “To treat an accused as a convict until any accusation against them has been proven true is a violation of his fundamental human rights. Thus, until all accusations against me are proven to be true, neither I nor anyone else can be meted out criminal treatment. Hence, the circular issued by the prisons and correctional services is deemed unjust.”

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