Gautam Navlakha’s health may deteriorate like Stan Swamy's in high-security jail section: Partner Sahba Husain
‘How much longer is he going to be persecuted for his views, and to what extent will authorities go to break his spirit,’ Gautam Navlakha’s partner Sahba Husain said
Sahba Husain, partner of activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha who was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case in 2020, has said that he has recently been shifted to a high-security section of the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai and not allowed to call his family and lawyers.
In a statement on Sunday, Husain said that Navlakha, who is nearly 70 years old, was shifted to the “Anda Circle” from the barracks on October 12.
“Additionally, his telephone calls to me and his lawyers, his lifeline to the outside world, have been discontinued on the pretext that physical mulaquats [meetings] have resumed in jail. I, his partner, Sahba Husain, am over 70, and I live in Delhi. Travelling to Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai frequently to meet him for the allotted 10 minutes is difficult and Gautam’s only contact with me is through the two calls he was allowed every week to me that enabled me to send him articles of need, including medicines, books etc,” she said, as per a report carried by Frontline.
She said with the phone calls now discontinued, he would be able to make contact only via letters that take at least two weeks to reach. She said not allowing under-trial prisoners to call their lawyers was the height of unfairness.
“Gautam’s fragile health and well-being will be further jeopardised by this withdrawal of the phone call facility to his family and lawyers. Already, in the Anda Circle, he is deprived of daily walks in the jail’s non-concreted greener areas and fresh air, and his health has deteriorated further, making specialised medical care an absolute necessity, if he is to live to fight this unjust and false case foisted on him,” she said.
She quoted Navlakha as saying he spends 16 hours a day inside his cell and the remaining eight hours in a cemented corridor surrounded by high walls.
Citing the recent death of another accused, Father Stan Swamy, while in custody, she said: “These are prisoners of conscience, who have had to face indignities and humiliation for the smallest needs, and wage court battles for basic dignities in prison…Gautam has faced his unjustified incarceration with courage and spirit. How much longer is he going to be persecuted for his views, and to what extent will the authorities go to break his spirit?”
She said Navlakha had written to her about his health, saying: “…confinement in Anda Circle means denial of fresh air/oxygen as there is not a single tree or plant in the open space of the Circle. And we are forbidden to step outside of the Anda Circle…. In other words, we spend 16 hours out of 24 cooped inside our cell and the 8 hours we are let out we are confined to a corridor 71/2’ x 72’ for our daily walk on cemented floor surrounded by high walls all around.”
Sahba Husain expressed the fear that Navlakha’s health would deteriorate the way the late Father Stan Swamy’s did, given the severity of jail conditions.