Global scholars call for release of jailed and infected Indian poet

India, Telugu, Poet
Telugu poet Varavara Rao has been in jail for the past several years over suspected ties with Maoists. - PTI

New Delhi - Noam Chomsky is among the signatories of the open letter


Published: Mon 20 Jul 2020, 6:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Jul 2020, 9:06 PM

More than 100 international academics including Noam Chomsky have called on India to release communist poet Varavara Rao after the high-profile prisoner tested positive for coronavirus.
Rao, 79, was swept up in police raids across the country in 2018 over links to Maoist militants and detained in a Mumbai prison, but never charged.
His family claim that his health has severely deteriorated since he was jailed, and he tested positive for COVID-19 after he was moved to a hospital last week.
The signatories - which include intellectual luminaries such as Barbara Harriss-White, Jan Breman and Amogh Sharma - also called for the release of 10 other Indian scholar-activists.
"Conditions in the jails in which these prisoners of conscience have been kept are said to be unhealthy and the threat of spread of infection has grown," said the open letter, dated Sunday.
"We join other international scholars in appealing for the immediate release of Varavara Rao and the other... activists."
Rao's family on Monday called on authorities to brief them regularly on the poet's condition.
"His family is not informed at all," they wrote in a statement.
"Not sharing health updates of a person in judicial custody with his family is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman."
Maharashtra state, where Rao is being held, has emerged as the epicentre of India's coronavirus outbreak with more than 300,000 confirmed infections.

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