Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Kapil Patil will visit the Taloja Central Jail to meet Bhima Koregaon accused Sagar Gorkhe, who is on an indefinite hunger strike alleging harassment by jail authorities.
Mr. Patil is expected to meet Mr. Gorkhe, who has been on a strike unto death since May 20, as he and other co-accused have been denied basic facilities and phone calls with families.
Mr. Gorkhe was arrested on September 7, 2020 from Kondhwa by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and has been in jail since then. His mosquito net was taken away by the Superintendent of Taloja jail, U.T. Pawar, who told The Hindu, “Yes, we have taken away the mosquito net because it is very dangerous to allow it inside the jail as it has pointed nails and a long rope, a prisoner can commit suicide using the rope and kill himself with the nail.”
On May 24, Mr. Gorkhe had sent a letter to the Maharashtra Home Minister stating that all letters received and sent from jail to lawyers and families are scrutinised by the jail authorities, the anti-Naxal cell and some are also sent to the NIA. Mr. Pawar had said, “That is a procedure that we follow for all prisoners, it is mentioned in the Prison Manual. All the letters that go out and come in are checked and scanned in all prisons across the country.”
Phone calls not allowed
The letter claims that despite a direction from the Bombay High Court, Mr. Gorkhe and other co-accused in the case are not allowed to make phone calls to family members. Mr. Pawar had justified this by saying, there is a circular issued by the Prison department that states, irrespective of being an undertrial or a convict, those who are charged for terrorism, Naxalism or are gangsters, will not be given this facility. He said, “I am following the circular.”
The Hindu has a copy of the letter that also mentions, only a bucket of water to drink, to bathe and also use in the toilet. However, Mr. Pawar had refuted the claim, and said, “Mr. Gorkhe is kept in a high security cell, which is attached to a tanker which provides him water 24/7. He has more access to water than any other prisoner, as others are given only two bottles of water to drink and there is a tap provided to fill their bucket for the toilet and bathing. If he still needs more water, we have a canteen, from where he can easily purchase water.”
The 35-year-old has been complaining of back problems and other health issues, but has not been attended by the jail hospital or taken to the State-run J.J. Hospital. To this, Mr. Pawar said, “Our jail hospital is well equipped, if he has any issues, he can come and show the doctor. We never deny medical facilities to any inmate.”
Mr. Gorkhe, along with two other artists Jyoti Jagtap (lodged in the Byculla jail) and Ramesh Gaichor (at the Taloja jail) from Pune, is part of a cultural troupe, Kabir Kala Manch, made up of Dalit and working-class musicians and poets who came together after the anti-Muslim Gujarat pogroms of 2002.