Family, rights activists demand release of Sudha Bharadwaj over coronavirus risks

On Thursday, prominent activist Sudha Bharadwaj, imprisoned in the Bhima-Koregaon case, called her daughter Maaysha from the Byculla prison and said she had diarrhoea, fatigue, and had lost her appetite and sense of taste for the last three weeks.

“My mother has not been feeling well since she got vaccinated around three weeks ago. She was telling me that she had even written to the superintendent of Byculla jail about her health. Her letter requested him to take her to JJ Hospital for a thorough body check-up but to no avail,” Maaysha told reporters.

Bharadwaj is among several activists and lawyers who were arrested by the Pune Police in the Elgar Parishad case in August 2018. In 2020, the case was transferred to the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which has subsequently arrested more activists and academics under draconian UAPA.

Family members and rights activists expressed their deep concern over the reported worsening condition of Bharadwaj kept in jail, saying the surge in COVID-19 cases has put her lives in danger.

Senior lawyer Indira Jaising demanded that the NIA must immediately shift her to a hospital outside jail to protect her right to life.

“It’s cruel and inhuman treatment of human rights defenders in Prisions by the state,” she added.

“This is so awful. In Modi’s India we worry about our friends dying of Covid-19 – but also have to worry about friends imprisoned indefinitely on false pretexts, getting Covid-19 in prison, remaining undiagnosed and untreated. Free Sudha Bharadwaj and ensure the best treatment,” CPIML leader Kavita Krishnan said in a tweet.

Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani has appealed to Maharashtra chief minister to look into the matter and ask concerned IGP to get Sudha Bharadwaj proper treatment.

“Nothing should happen to her. She has contributed enormously for pro poor cause. I appeal all the like minded people to make noise in this regard. We can’t remain silent on this,” he said.

“We need to get all the intellectuals and activisys jailed under this extremely spurious vendetta case outside before they all succumb to some serious ailment or the other. This appears to be in the malicious intention of the regime and news like this is shattering,” read a tweet by award winning author Meena Kandasamy.

During the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic also the family members demanded Sudha Bharadwaj’s release at the earliest on the grounds of her susceptibility to COVID-19 after a report informed that she is suffering from Ischemic heart disease, a heart problem caused by narrowing of arteries that causes reduced blood flow to the heart muscle and can lead to heart attack.

“This is extremely worrisome as Sudha Bharadwaj never had any heart related complaints before she was taken in custody on October 27, 2018, after her nearly two months of house arrest,” daughter Maaysha said.

According to family, Bharadwaj’s deteriorating heart condition is clearly triggered by the stress she is facing due to her three-year-long incarceration with no trial on sight.