Bhima Koregaon under-trial prisoners Mahesh Raut, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor test positive for COVID-19

Three under-trial prisoners in the Bhima Koregaon case – Mahesh Raut, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor – have tested positive for the COVID-19 disease.

Gaichor and Gorkhe are the artists associated with the Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural organisation founded by artiste Amarnath Chautaliya in response to the Gujarat genocide 2002 while Raut is an activist working with Adivasi communities in Gadchiroli. He is the youngest accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case.

An RT-PCR test drive was conducted at Taloja Jail after tribal rights activist and co-accused in the case Stan Swamy tested positive for the coronavirus at a hospital in Mumbai on May 30, The Hindu reported on Thursday.

The other prisoners in the case, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Arun Ferreira, Anand Teltumbde, Rona Wilson and Gautam Navlakha have tested negative.

“Three have tested positive and seven have tested negative. They have been given medicines,” The Hindu quoted as Superintendent of Taloja Central Jail saying.

Hany Babu is being treated at Breach Candy hospital since May 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus and contracting an eye infection.

Varavara Rao was released on medical bail by the Bombay High Court on March 1.

A total of 16 people have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case so far. In 2018, as part of a massive crackdown on human rights defenders in India, 9 prominent activists– Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, and Varavara Rao were arrested by the Pune Police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case. Two years later, the crackdown on human rights defenders continues with the arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, and Stan Swamy.

All are facing charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).