Taloja Jail denies new spectacles to visually challenged Gautam Navlakha!

Navlakha may have to wait for his specs, it took courts to ensure Stan Swamy got sipper-straw, Varavara Rao got hospital care

Image Courtesy:telegraphindia.com

No spectacles, water sippers, letters from home, books, specialised medical care, Taloja Jail authorities put up all resistance possible for these items, that are essentials for those who need them. Undertrail inmate Gautam Navlakha, an activist and journalist is almost bliing without his prescription glasses. His only pair was stolen recently, and now the jail has refused to accept the replacement pair that was sent to him by his family.

Meanwhile, it is only left to imagine how the 70-year-old must be surviving and desperately trying to negotiate each day unable to see things. Till he gets new spectacles, Navlakha would now be dependent on the kindness of fellow inmates to negotiate even taking a few steps without colliding into something.

Just as 83-year-old priest-tribal rights activist Fr. Stan Swamy who suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease would have suffered serious dehydration because he was denied his old water sipper-straw. It had taken a massive campaign to ensure that Taloja jail authorities gave Fr. Stan Swamy the sipper, and some warm clothes! Swamy is unable to hold a cup or a glass as his hands shake uncontrollably due to  Parkinson’s disease. 

Gautam Navlakha can’t see anything now that his spectacles are stolen, and ‘is close to blind without his glasses’, said his partner Sabha Hussain, but Taloja jail authorities have refused to accept a parcel containing new spectacles. Both men have been accused in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of 2018. Hussain stated that 70-year-old Navlakha’s spectacles were stolen on November 27 and “it was an emergency, for he is close to blind without his glasses… Yet, he was not permitted to call his home for a replacement until three days later, but even that call proved futile.” Hussain is reported to have said that she sent a new pair of spectacles, but the jail authorities refused to accept it when it was delivered via post on December 5. “The jail authorities were informed that Gautam was almost blind without the spectacles and that they would be arriving any day and to ensure that the parcel is accepted and not returned,” she stated in a note that was widely reported.

As Navlakha is unable to see things around him, he is in acute distress, and subsequently his blood pressure has shot up, she stated, “tall claims made by Indian authorities on jail conditions, in their extradition cases and constitutional directives on the rights of prisoners are alike mocked by this act of deliberate and perverse cruelty,” she added. A courier receipt of the failed attempt to deliver spectacles to Gautam Navlakha, shared by his lawyer, and was reported by Scroll.

According to a news report in The Hindu, Husain said, Navlakha “has a very high-power number about 6.5 and is almost blind without them. So, I immediately got a new one made and sent it by Speed Post, as the jail authorities do not accept courier, on December 3. I thought it would have reached by now so I tracked it online only to find out that it reached the jail on December 5 but was returned on December 6.” 

“Will all the accused of Bhima Koregaon be treated like this.. where Stan Swamy has to wait for a month to get a sipper and now this..” she said.

Meanwhile the Jail Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar is reported to have said, “We do not accept any couriers, and we have not received any parcel by post. I told him if he wants another pair made, he can give us the power of his specs and we can make one for him. But he hasn’t. So what can we do?” According to a news report he said, “All the accused of Elghar Parishad, whether Varvara Rao, Stan Swamy or him, they can’t take care of themselves or their belongings. Is it our responsibility to take care of his specs?”

As journalist Presley Thomas confirmed on social media Taloja jail authorities asked “Navlakha to give them his prescription to get a fresh pair of glasses made or to ask his relatives to personally deliver it”. However, it is not known if Navlakha is even carrying his prescription papers.  

The case of denying Navlakha an urgent replacement of lost specs comes close on the massive struggle it took for Swamy to get his straw and sipper from the Taloja Jail authorities. An application was filed by Swamy on November 6, the NIA sought 20 days to reply to it and eventually formed the court that it does not have the straw or sipper and denied confiscating it. A massive social media campaign had people sending sippers and straws to Fr Swamy. On November 29, Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Chhering Dorje told the media that Swamy was given his sipper.

Another undertrial, 80-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao’s counsel Senior Advocate Indira Jaising had told the court that she feared “he will lose his life if he continues in jail. He suffers from a neurological condition, he is bedridden, his catheter is not changed for more than 40 days.” Jaising told the court, “Rao was not examined by a specialist so how can the video examination tell this court whether he needs to be shifted out of the prison to the hospital?” She even pointed out that the Nanavati Hospital doctors suggested a complete blood count and sonography of the abdomen to be done, which had not yet been carried out. On November 18, the Bombay High Court directed Taloja jail authorities to shift him to Nanavati Hospital.


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