News: Political activist, writer and poet, 79-year-old P. Varavara Rao was shifted out of Taloja jail and hospitalised in the state- run JJ Hospital, Mumbai on the evening of May 28 after he fainted. Rao has been in jail since August 2018, charged under the UAPA, in spite of the threat of the novel coronavirus.
- Dr. Rao is a poet, journalist, literary critic and activist from Telangana. Since 1973, he has been arrested several times for going against the state, and was also arrested during the Emergency.
- In 2018, he was arrested along with four others for allegedly having connections to the Elgaar Parishad event, where there was a violent clash between Dalits and Marathas in Pune. All the activists were labelled as “urban naxalites” and accused of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Dr. Rao was charged under the UAPA and several sections of the IPC, accused of giving “inflammatory speeches” leading to caste violence Koregaon Bhima war memorial.
- The case was eventually given a new turn with the police claiming that Rao, along with several other activists and lawyers had plotted to assassin prime minister Narendra Modi.
- Rao’s lawyers have moved for his bail citing his age and medical condition. His daughters P. Sahaja, P. Anala and P. Pavana have written to the state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to release him on temporary bail.
- On 9 May 2020 three prisoners in the central prisons of Taloja and Yerwada, and in Dhule district passed away due to COVID-19. Nearly 170 arrested persons have tested positive in prisons across the state. The health problems that Dr. Rao faces makes his especially vulnerable to the virus, Yet, during the eight weeks of lockdown, the authorities have not allowed even the usual correspondence or visits from the family. His lawyers too were not allowed to visit him. The advocates stated that the prison authorities were unresponsive when they call to enquire about his health condition.
Update: On May 30, a special lockdown court was ordered to call report about health conditions of 81-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao from Superintendent of JJ Hospital.