Jailed in Elgar Parishad Case, Gorakhe Goes on Indefinite Hunger Strike Over 'Harassment'

Sagar Gorakhe has taken the matter to Maharashtra home minister, accusing Taloja Prison authorities of turning the prison into a 'torture camp' for him and his co-accused in the Elgar Parishad case.

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New Delhi: Sagar Tatyaram Gorakhe, accused in the Elgar Parishad case, has been on hunger strike unto death at Taloja Prison in Mumbai from May 21, alleging “harassment” and inhumane treatment by prison authorities.

Gorakhe has taken the matter to Maharashtra home minister, Dilip Walse Patil, in a letter dated May 20, “It is with extreme distress that I inform you that since the very beginning, the prison administration has treated the Bhima Koregaon Case accused with utmost prejudice. As a result, the prison has become a torture camp for my co-accused and me.”

He put out a list of five demands before the authorities to address his grievances, and for him to call off his hunger strike.

One, Gorakhe has accused the authorities of “intentional negligence” in providing medical care to the Elgar Parishad case accused.

“Even though I am suffering from several illnesses such as back pain, joint pain, and skin allergies, I am deliberately denied treatment from the prison medical officials.  The prison Superintendent in alliance with the medical officials is obstructing access to medical care… Even though the court has made clear its orders regarding access to medical services from external hospitals, the superintendent and medical officials resort to arbitrary decision-making.

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,” Gorakhe’s letter to Patil stated.

Two, he has accused the jail authorities of “illegally” scanning every letter received by him and his co-accused in the case. The scanned copies are then directly sent to investigation agencies, he added.

“Instead of opening the letters in front of us, each letter that we receive is already opened and unsealed by the time it reaches us. The books, accompanying papers, and stamps are sneakily stolen. Similarly, the letter sent outside is sent directly for scanning instead of being sealed in front of me [/us],” the letter said.

Three, Gorakhe has demanded to put an end to “perversely orchestrated water shortage in the prison and its inhumane sale”.

“According to the prison rules, every inmate must receive 135 litres of water, but the apathetic Taloja Central Jail administration provides only one bucket, that is 15 litres of water, to every inmate… The prisoners are forced to survive with only 15 litres of water resulting in a reign of insanitation.”

Four, Gorakhe has demanded that a permanent visiting room should be immediately constructed alongside making clean drinking water, sanitation, fans and other facilities available for visitors to the prison.

“Every day more than 500 civilians visit the prison to meet the inmates, including family members and lawyers. From the moment of registration until meeting the inmate, the archaic system takes about five to seven hours…  The incompetent prison administration has made it extremely exhausting for my family members who travel hundreds of kilometres to meet me.”

Five, Gorakhe has demanded that telephonic services made available to inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic be restored immediately. The services were later revoked.

He said he had been told by authorities that such facilities would not be made available to those accused in “terrorist activities/sedition/Naxalism/gang war/organised crime/habitual offenders”, as per a certain circular.

“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.”

Also read: ‘Institutional Murder of a Gentle Soul’: Families of Elgar Parishad Accused on Stan Swamy’s Death

Gorakhe has also alleged that “it was the maltreatment by the prison administration that led to the custodial death of Father Stan Swami last year”.

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

According to Gorakhe, all the accused in the Elgar Parishad case, lodged in Taloja Prison, had gone on hunger strike on Saturday, May 21. This was a day after “a full contingent of jail officers and staff swooped down on the Anda Circle” to take away mosquito nets from them despite their pleas not to do so given that monsoon is round the corner.