“I last spoke to him yesterday. He complained of acute chest pain, loose motion, and fever. He is a heart patient who is severely ill, and the jail authorities are not giving him proper medical care.”
This is what Sanjeeda Rahman told Newslaundry while describing her husband Atikur Rahman’s deteriorating health in Mathura jail. Atikur was arrested on October 5 last year along with journalist Siddique Kappan, Masood Ahmad, and their driver Alam while on their way to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, where a young woman had been gangraped and later died.
Rahman is a former national treasurer of the Campus Front of India, a student organisation, and a current member. Along with the other three, he was booked for sedition, among other charges, and also under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The FIR accused them of going to Hathras to “breach peace and tranquillity”, claimed there was a “conspiracy”, and accused them of “creating fear in society”.
Rahman, Kappan, Ahmad and Alam have been in jail ever since.
Rahman’s wife Sanjeeda addressed the media at Delhi Press Club today. She was joined by CFI’s general secretary Ashwan Sadiq P and her husband’s lawyer Madhuvan Dutt.
Sanjeeda said Rahman had been diagnosed with a heart condition – aortic regurgitation – when he was eight years old, wherein his heart’s aortic valve does not close tightly, which could result in heart failure.
Rahman was scheduled to have heart surgery last November but was arrested just a month before. His wife said he’s been regularly visiting Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science since 2007.
In jail for nearly a year, Rahman is a victim of “severe medical neglect”, Sanjeeda told Newslaundry. “ I have been saving Rs 2 lakh for his surgery for the past two years,” she said. “But what is the point now? We are in Delhi because we want him to be moved to AIIMS for his surgery. I sincerely urge the media to amplify our voices.”
While Rahman’s family insists that his poor health stems from his heart condition, the Mathura police and jail authorities claim he has a “seasonal fever”. Mathura jail’s district superintendent, Brijesh Kumar, that the doctor at the jail hospital “told us he has a viral fever” and that he is currently undergoing treatment.
Rahman’s lawyer Madhuvan Dutt told Newslaundry that they had sought proper medical care for Rahman three times, filing applications at the Mathura court on December 22, March 25, and May 20. All three applications were heard, but there were no specific instructions given by the court to the jail authorities.
The press conference took place at Delhi Press Club today.
Dutt also filed a writ petition at the Allahabad High Court on July 26 on medical grounds. “Till date, it has not even been listed in court,” he said.
Explaining that Rahman had been admitted in the district hospital several times since his incarceration, Dutt said, “He is being treated by general physicians in jail when his health needs to be treated by an expert. He is merely being given life-saving drugs. He was also taken to SM Medical College. Now, he has been hospitalised in the jail hospital. The medical facilities required to monitor Atikur Rahman’s severe and sensitive heart disease as well as his treatment are not available in Mathura.”
Pointing out that Rahman was an undertrial prisoner, Dutt added, “Right to life and liberty is a pious provision in our constitution. We don’t know what will happen in the future. But, his human rights should be respected as much as anyone who is outside jail.”
Speaking to Newslaundry, CFI’s Ashwan Sadiq P accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of “political vendetta” in arresting Rahman and building a “fabricated” case against him. “The Uttar Pradesh government is deliberately trying to remove political prisoners,” he said.
Calling Rahman’s case “another Stan Swamy in the making”, Sadiq said, “Swamy was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. But the government deprived Swamy of his basic human rights when he was not even allowed to have a sipper. I am afraid that if necessary care is not provided to him [Rahman], it might lead to another custodial death.”
Sadiq said the CFI has urged judicial intervention in Atikur’s plea seeking advanced care from AIIMS and has demanded that he be granted bail immediately.