‘Jailor instigating influential criminals against us for speaking up on graft’: Bhima Koregaon accused

Kabir Kala Manch activist Sagar Gorkhe has written to the police and the state human rights panel seeking action.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Sagar Gorkhe is lodged in the Taloja prison.

Bhima Koregaon violence case accused and Kabir Kala Manch activist Sagar Gorkhe has written to the Navi Mumbai police commissioner alleging that officials at the Taloja prison have directed other prisoners to silence them for trying to raise the issue of alleged corruption within the jail.

The letter was sent to Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner Milind Bharambe on June 24. A copy of the same has also been sent to the state human rights commission.

“Senior jailor Sunil Patil is taking money from influential VIP criminals and giving them the rations meant for ordinary prisoners…the quality of food served to ordinary prisoners has deteriorated. My co-accused and I in the Koregaon-Bhima case have raised our concerns about this corruption, which is why the prison authorities are trying to silence us….after we protested against the corruption inside the jail, Mahesh Raut and I – another accused in the Koregaon-Bhima case – were summoned by jailor Patil on June 18 to the jail superintendent’s office. He warned us not to interfere with the corruption related to the canteen. However, when we raised our concerns about the corruption with him, he threatened us with dire consequences,” wrote Gorkhe.

“To get us out of his way, the jailor started instigating hardcore and influential criminals against us. He told them that their VIP facilities would be stopped because of the Elgar Parishad prisoners, and that if they wanted to keep those facilities, they needed to silence us. Because of this my fellow co-accused and I fear being attacked by these influential criminals and gangsters inside the jail at any time.”

Newslaundry reached out to Sunil Patil, Navi Mumbai police commissioner Milind Bharambe as well as Maharashtra (prisons) additional DGP Amitabh Gupta for comment. We also sent questions to the state human rights commission. 

Bharambe said that he was not aware of the complaint. “Who has he written to? There is a separate ADG (prisons) for this who sits in Pune.”

Additional DGP (prisons) Amitabh Gupta, said, “I am not aware of this issue at all. I am in the assembly.” 

This report will be updated if a response is received from the others.

‘Should be dealt with urgently’

Among the accused lodged in Taloja prison in the case are Gorkhe, human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling,  activist Sudhir Dhawale, Kabir Kala Manch member Ramesh Gaichor, tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut, Delhi university professor Hany Babu and activist Rona Wilson.   

Mumbai-based activist Harshal Potdar said that this is not the first time Gorkhe has complained about jail authorities. “During Covid, prisoners had a hard time because they lacked basic facilities. Father Stan Swamy was not given basic medical care despite his poor health. His death was an institutional murder. Now, jail authorities are instigating hardened criminals to target Koregaon-Bhima case prisoners. This is very worrisome because it involves physical threats. If anything happens, jail authorities should be held responsible. As a social activist, I believe this should be dealt with urgently as it is dangerous.”

An NIA court had in 2022 rejected a plea filed by Gorkhe and one more accused to use mosquito nets in prison. They had approached the court after their mosquito nets were taken away by prison officials; Gorkhe had gone on a hunger strike after the prison officials seized the mosquito nets. The jail authorities later told the court that the mosquito nets had been taken away as the prisoners could use them to strangulate themselves. The court rejected the plea for mosquito nets but allowed them to use mosquito repellents, ointments and incense sticks.

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