Mumbai, July 16, 2020 – More than 500 individuals including activists academics, lawyers and Students endorsed petition to Chief Minister Maharashtra Uddhav Bal Thackeray  to release Bhima Koregaon accused amidst Covid 19 Pandemic .

Bhima Koregaon 11 include -Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj Varavara Rao Dr Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. All of them are from different professions including lawyers, journalists, activists and academics.

The Constitution of India, Article 21, guarantees protection of life and personal liberty to every individual. Yet, the rights of activists and lawyers incarcerated under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) since 2018 in Maharashtra jails are at grave risk due to the delay and dragging of cases since the last 24 months.

Even after the pandemic outbreak, social distancing norms were not followed in prison and neither were the inmates informed when the first inmate tested positive. While inmates are told by authorities in Mumbai to maintain social distancing, however, in an overcrowded prison, which has a capacity of 804 but houses 2,800 prisoners whom are they kidding? Many undertrials spend sleepless nights, sitting in the barracks to ensure they do not end up sleeping close to an infected person as no one knows the condition of the other.

The Text of the Petition

We, the citizens of a democratic republic appeal to you regarding the eleven persons- Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson  accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Presently, amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, the risk to their life and limb in the overcrowded, unhygienic prisons is grave. The justice system in which we all believe in must be utilized to uphold the Rule of Law but cannot be blinded to the prevailing conditions that can prove to be fatal.

The accused citizens as lawyers, academics, activists etc have contributed to the betterment of society and we believe as political prisoners they are entitled to a fair and just trial. As the trial will take a long time to commence and will go on for years, it is only fair that they are released on bail.

We appeal to you, as head of the state, to temporarily shift them out of these precarious lives threatening conditions, and place them under house arrest or release them on interim bail so that they will continue to be available to the courts.

We request you to urgently intervene and meet our request, before it is too late, given that most of them are senior citizens and all of them have comorbid conditions and with a constant threat of exposure to positive undetected cases in prison.

The list of signatories