New Delhi: Forty eminent poets and writers of India have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the release of 80-year old Varavara Rao, who is currently lodged in prison as an accused in the contentious Bhima Koregaon case.
Some of the writers who signed the letter are Gulzar, Ashok Vajpeyi, Satchidanandan, Keki M. Daruwalla, Magalesh Dabral, Jeet Thayil and Meera Kandasamy among others.
Rao, a renowned Telugu poet and writer, has been suffering from multiple ailments, and runs a very high risk of infection in the crowded Yerawada Central Jail in Pune, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Rao’s family has been complaining of his worsening health conditions for many months now, but in vain.
Although the government has issued directions to release prisoners to avoid overcrowding in prisons, none of the 11 accused people in the Bhima Koregaon case, in which many sections of the civil society believe that the case against the 11 scholars and activists are fabricated, have been released.
On Tuesday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested two more accused – social activists and intellectuals Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha – in the case.
The poets and writers said that Vernon Gonsalves, a fellow prisoner and accused in the same case, had informed them that Rao’s health condition has been worsening inside the prison.
“Therefore, we, poets from various languages in India, request the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to release poet Varavara Rao urgently and save his life,” they said, adding that the government should also consider the release of other detainees who are currently at risk because of their health conditions.
Below is their statement:
Respected Prime Minister of India,
Our country is in a crucial moment of facing one of the harshest crises in its history. The corona virus outbreak has brought to us a herculean burden in addition to the current socio-political and economic challenges. At this moment, there are several sections of the people who need attention, care and support to survive. One such group is the prisoners, who due to the nature of prison life, are subject to high risk.
A touching plea has been made on behalf of poet Sri. Varavara Rao who is in prison since November 2018. He, along with nine other public intellectuals were implicated and charged under various provisions of UAPA in the Bhima Koregaon case. There have been ongoing national and international campaigns demanding justice for the accused and that bail be granted to them. It has been argued that the cases against them are framed as part of the move to crush voices of dissent and criticism against the government and those in power.
Sri. Varavara Rao, renowned poet, writer and harbinger of change in modern Telugu poetry, eighty years of age, runs a very high risk of ailment considering his age, deteriorating health and the crowding situation in jail. Sri. Vernon Gonsalves, a fellow prisoner, had sent a message to the advocate drawing attention to the worrisome health condition of Sri. Rao. In this context, we see the plea for help with utmost concern.
Therefore, we, poets from various languages in India, request the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to release poet Varavara Rao urgently and save his life.
We also request the Prime Minister to consider the release of all other detainees in high risk category, in the light of the pandemic.
With utmost trust in truth and justice,
- Gulzar (Urdu/Panjabi)
- Ashok Vajpeyi (Hindi)
- Mangalesh Dabral (Hindi)
- Satchidanandan (Malayalam)
- K Sivareddy (Telugu)
- K G Sankara Pillai (Malayalam)
- Yumlembam Ibomcha (Manipuri)
- Robin Ngangom (English/Manipuri)
- Mamang Dai (Adi/English)
- Chandrakant Patil (Marathi/Hindi)
- Gauhar Raza (Urdu)
- Keki M Daruwalla (English)
- Prabodh Parikh (Gujarati)
- Sukumaran (Tamil)
- Jeet Thayil (English)
- Prathibha Nandakumar (Kannada)
- Naveen Vasireddi (Telugu)
- V M Girija (Malayalam)
- Hemant Divate (Marathi)
- Nilim Kumar (Assamese)
- Tarannum Riyaz (Urdu)
- Arambam Memchoubi (Manipuri)
- Subodh Sarkar (Bengali)
- P P Ramachandran (Malayalam)
- E V Ramakrishnan (English)
- Rafeeq Ahamed (Malayalam)
- Salma (Tamil)
- Menka Shivdasani (English)
- K R Tony (Malayalam)
- S Joseph (Malayalam)
- Anvar Ali (Malayalam)
- Anitha Thampi (Malayalam)
- Jiban Narah (Assamese)
- Anubhav Tulasi (Assamese)
- Monica Kumar (Hindi/Panjabi)
- P.N. Gopikrishnan (Malayalam)
- Mamta Sagar (Kannada)
- Kutti Revathi (Tamil)
- Meena Kandasamy (English)
- Sridala Swami (English)