Jail tale of neglect

Prison 'snubs' Kobad health plea

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 23.03.18
Kobad Ghandy

New Delhi: Possibly the most high-profile Maoist alive, Doon School alumnus Kobad Ghandy, 71, in Tenughat sub-jail, Bokaro, since December 2017, has smuggled out a letter meant for the jail's superintendent in-charge, to a friend in Delhi's academic circles, where he said his health problems were "very serious" and "can lead to death".

In the letter dated February 5, which the friend in Delhi received on Wednesday, the politburo member of the banned CPI(Maoist) alleged that the jail staff had not performed tests recommended by a doctor.

Giving a detailed account of his sufferings, including an acute problem of "the prostrate/kidney/urinary which has become very serious", Ghandy wrote that his blood pressure was high ("160/110) despite medication, he had arthritis and a slipped disc that made it difficult for him to walk.

"Jharkhand Police have been very kind and during police custody even took me to Bokaro General Hospital for prostrate/kidney examination. The doctor suggested a number of tests, including ultrasound, for prostrate cancer," the letter said.

"Though I repeatedly reminded Tenughat sub-jail authorities to follow up, nothing happened though over a month has passed. Meanwhile, since the last three-four nights the problem has intensified, resulting in my having to pass urine 12-15 times (earlier 5-6 times) at nights (sic)," he said.

Ghandy wrote, "I am 71 years of age, if anything serious happened to my health, who will be responsible? All these problems (particularly urine) are chronic and if not dealt with urgently can lead to death. I request urgent action before it is too late."

His lawyer Rohit Thakur, based in Bokaro, but in Delhi now, told this paper there was no doctor in the sub-jail and his client could get treatment only if shifted to a proper hospital. "But he (Ghandy) is denied even a mosquito net. He could not send this letter to the jail superintendent based in Bokaro," the lawyer said.

Ghandy was first arrested in 2009 for allegedly establishing the Maoist party in the capital. The police caught him when he was being treated for cancer. Incarcerated in Tihar jail for seven years, he was convicted for cheating, forgery and impersonation but acquitted of terror charges in 2016. Then, he was transferred to Cherlapalli jail near Hyderabad followed by Vishakhapatnam prison where he faced trial in several cases. Three days after his release on bail, he was arrested by Jharkhand police in December 2017 in two cases - alleged attacks on CISF and police in 2007 in which eight persons were killed - from Achampet court in Telangana's Mahbubnagar where he had gone for a hearing.

On this arrest, Ghandy had earlier issued a hand-written press release saying it was only to keep him incarcerated indefinitely. "The FIR has been pending since 2010, and there was no response even though both I and Cherlapalli jail authorities wrote to judicial magistrates of first class courts at Bokaro and Tenughat twice in this regard. The first letter was written on November 2, 2016. When there was no response to this, a reminder was sent by me and the jail authorities on March 9, 2017. Still, there was no response," he said.

A Mumbai boy, Ghandy studied in the elite Doon School, Dehradun, and St Xavier's College in his hometown, before leaving for London to study chartered accountancy. He is suspected to have come under the influence of the far Left there and was associated with the CPIML-People's War which merged with the Maoist Communist Centre to form CPI(Maoist) in 2004. His wife Anuradha Shanbag, who died of malaria in the forests bordering Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Telangana in 2008, was also a central committee member of the party.