Ailing Indian activist, 82, shifted to hospital after 2-year detention

New Delhi, Nov 18 (efe-epa).- An Indian court on Wednesday ordered an ailing octogenarian poet and activist to be shifted to a hospital, two years after his detention on charges of inciting violence during an event organized by Dalits, the lowest in the Hindu caste hierarchy.

Around a dozen other prominent rights campaigners, along with Rao, 82, were accused by authorities of links to the guerrillas of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist.

Rights groups have criticized the charges against the rights defenders as an attempt to silence critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The Bombay High Court in the western state of Maharashtra “directed Varavara Rao to be shifted immediately to Nanavati hospital for 15 days and submit a medical report to (the) court,” Rao’s lawyer Indira Jaising told EFE.

According to his lawyers, the health of the activist had deteriorated during the two years he spent in jail under a controversial anti-terror law that has come under fire for its harsh provisions and granting extensive powers to authorities.

Jaising claimed that Rao is “almost on his deathbed,” and said during a hearing on Wednesday that the poet was bed-ridden and the jail authorities had not let him change his catheter for three months.

Investigators are probing the activist in a case linked to the clashes between Dalits and right-wing Hindu groups, which left one person dead and injured many others on Jan.1, 2018, at Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra.

Dalits had gathered in large numbers to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, in which the formerly “untouchable” members of the Hindu society had fought and won as part of a British regiment against rulers of the Maratha caste, which enjoyed a higher social status.

The charges against Rao include inciting violence and links with CPI-Maoist that has waged half a century-long armed battle seeking to carry out a Maoist-agrarian revolution, as well as an alleged plot to murder Modi.

Rao is part of a group of activists, lawyers, and academicians named in a probe by the premier anti-terror probe agency of India.

An 83-year-old Jesuit priest, Stan Swamy, was arrested on Oct 10 on charges that critics allege are politically motivated and being used as retaliation for his activism. EFE-EPA


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