Rao was arrested in August 2018 from his Hyderabad home in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case related to the Bhima Koregaon violence earlier that year. He has been lodged in the Tajola jail in Navi Mumbai since then.
The Indian Express on Friday quoted unnamed officials as saying that while Rao was not fully conscious or coherent while being admitted in July, he was weak but able to “coherently hold conversations” now.
Several activists had campaigned for Rao’s release in July because of his poor health condition. He was admitted to Mumbai’s JJ hospital after he fell ill in May and then discharged before being readmitted in July. He was then moved to St George’s hospital and then Nanavati Hospital.
Rao’s family had alleged at the time that he was discharged quickly in June to obstruct his bail plea.
In July, the National Human Rights Commission had called Rao’s “deteriorating health condition” a “serious issue of violation of human rights” and had directed the government to move him to a super speciality hospital.
While he has now tested negative for Covid-19, the fact that he was sent back to prison when his family has alleged lack of medical attention raises serious questions, especially given his age and current health crisis.
Rao being sent back to prison comes even as Sudha Bharadwaj’s daughter Maaysha alleged that her mother developed a heart ailment from the stress of being in prison. Bharadwaj, also arrested in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case, has been jail since October 2018.
Reports said that according to a health report from the prison dated July 23, Bharadwaj has developed Ischemic Heart Disease.
“Doctors consulted explained such condition…as serious that could lead to a heart attack. The medical report obtained from the jail does not clarify when this condition was diagnosed, nor does it explain the basis for this diagnosis,” The Indian Express quoted Maayesha as saying.
Bhardwaj’s friends and family also said in a press release that each day she spent in prison was risky for her.
They said, “The recent heart condition adds to Sudha Bharadwaj’s existing ailment of diabetes, blood pressure and a past history of pulmonary tuberculosis. Such health conditions make Sudha Bharadwaj extremely vulnerable and susceptible to infections of Covid-19. At a time of such a pandemic, each day spent in an unsafe, crowded place is exposing a person with co-morbidities to unnecessary health risk. Such delays in the judicial process are thus unconscionable.”
They said that her bail plea on health grounds had been listed 12 times after being filed on June 11 and there has still been no decision.
Even Rao’s bail plea was rejected by an NIA court on June 26. The next hearing in the case is on Monday.