Bhima-Koregaon case: Maharashtra CM urged to place accused in house arrest

Romila Thapar, four others, appeal to Uddhav Thackeray on humanitarian grounds

Historian Romila Thapar, and four other intellectuals, have appealed to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to move the 11 activists, arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, out of jails and place them in house arrest.

Expressing concern over their health, in the letter dated June 25, Ms. Thapar along with Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Maja Daruwala and Satish Deshpande, said, “At present 11 social activists — Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson — are accused in the Bhima Koregaon case and lodged at prisons in Maharashtra. All of them are either senior citizens or have serious co-morbidities, or both, that would place them at severe risk if they were infected with COVID-19.”

In the letter they have pointed out, “One of them is a 81-year-old Varavara Rao, who suffered a collapse recently and was in ICU. He continues to be in precarious health. We are concerned about the undue level of risk they are being exposed to which may easily prove fatal. The conditions under which they are lodged are extremely poor and provide no guarantee of their continued well being.”

They requested the Chief Minister to place all the accused under house arrest, where they will continue to remain available to the criminal justice system. “As the highest official of the State government you have absolute authority about where these prisoners can be lodged while awaiting trial,” they wrote.

“Covid-19 contagion is spreading across Maharashtra. Prisons, with their overcrowding and sub-optimal conditions, coupled with the age and co-morbidities of these prisoners may prove to be a death sentence. We appeal you to take the humanitarian step of preventing the unnecessary exposure of elderly and well-respected public persons to such an avoidable hazard,” the letter said.

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