Varavara Roa is an 81 year-old Telugu poet and activist, presently languishing in Taloja jail in Maharashtra's Navi Mumbai Township as an under-trial in the Elgar Parishad case since November 2018, charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. (UAPA.) He has been denied bail repeatedly even on humanitarian grounds of his advanced age, precarious health condition or the potential risk of contracting COVID-19 from fellow inmates.
This cowardly act by the Indian government haunts us more than the restrictions imposed on our lives by the dreaded Covid-19. As fellow poets, we cherish our freedom of expression and “the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism”(Wole Soyinka).This criticism includes the right to criticize the current fascist right-wing regime.
This is even more inhuman if activists are jailed when social and political activism is forced to retreat from public spaces due to restrictions from Covid-19-resulting in an act of infringement on human rights.
Let me join the rest of the literary community in condemning this ghastly act of imprisoning Mr. Varavara Rao and in drafting an appeal for an immediate release of this radical poet and for providing him with adequate medical assistance so that a precious life can be saved before irreparable damage has been inflicted on his soul by the state.
For Team Kritya