India: Human rights defender Hany Babu denied medical treatment in Taloja Jail

Original article here.

On 11 May 2021, family members of jailed human rights defender Hany Babu appealed to Indian
authorities to provide him with immediate access to medical treatment. In early May 2021, the
human rights defender developed a severe eye infection, which has already impaired his vision in
his left eye, and has now spread to his cheek, ear and forehead. The human rights defender is in
extreme pain, and continues to be denied access to basic facilities including clean water and
treatment. Family members fear that the infection, given the rate it has already spread, may impact
his vital organs. Hany Babu has been jailed without trial since July 2020 in the Bhima Koregan
case. The case, which is linked to the violence that took place in Bhima Koregan on 1 January
2018, has targeted several human rights defenders and accused them of conspiring to incite the
violence, 16 of whom have been imprisoned to date.


Hany Babu is a human rights defender, an academic and a campaigner for the rights of Dalit and
marginalized communities. At the time of his arrest, the human rights defender was an associate
professor in the English department of Delhi University, specializing in social justice, marginalized
languages and linguistic identity. In July 2020, he was arrested in connection with the Bhima
Koregan case, and detained at Taloja jail under the regressive anti-terrorism law, the Unlawful
Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).


The human rights defender first began experiencing pain and swelling in his left eye around 3 May
2021, resulting in impaired vision and severe pain. Hany Babu was denied immediate medical
treatment and on 7 May, following an intervention from his lawyers, was eventually taken to a
government hospital. Taloja jail is severely congested and experiences water shortages, resulting
in a lack of access to clean water for detainees. As a result, Hany Babu is unable to wash his
wound and is forced to dress it himself with soiled towels. At the hospital, the human rights
defender was prescribed medication and advised to return for follow-up treatment in two days.
Despite his condition deteriorating severely and being in extreme pain, the Taloja jail authorities
failed to take him back to the hospital for the follow-up treatment, citing an alleged lack of escort
staff.


Lawyers and family members of Hany Babu have repeatedly appealed to the jail authorities to
provide the human rights defender with treatment and basic facilities to avoid further damage to his
eyes, and his health and well-being. On 10 May 2021, at least eight phone calls from Hany Babu’s
lawyer to the Superintendent of Taloja jail went unanswered. At the time of writing, the human
rights defender remains in jail, in excruciating pain without medical treatment or clean water and
even if provided with adequate medical treatment at a later date, the damage already done to his
eye is irreparable.


Hany Babu’s condition is not unique, and is indicative of the suffering of inmates including human
rights defenders held in Indian prisons, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The suffering of inmates
such as Hany Babu and their families, is a reminder of what human rights defender Varavara Rao
had to undergo in jail, despite being seriously ill, and testing positive for COVID-19.
Multiple applications for bail for those detained in the Bhima Koregan case, on medical grounds,
and in light of the heightened risk to prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic have been denied
and/or are routinely delayed. Prison conditions and treatment of prisoners violates the most basic
standards of dignity and humanity. The treatment of Hany Babu, and other Bhima Koregan
prisoners, highlights the conditions that so many prisoners including human rights defenders are
forced to suffer. Families are denied access and basic information regarding the health and fate of
their loved ones. Despite the pandemic, treatment, basic sanitation, and test results are delayed
and/or denied. In the case of Hany Babu, the delay of more than a week to obtain necessary
medical treatment due to alleged staff shortages has placed the human rights defender at further
and unnecessary risk.


Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for the health and well-being of Hany Babu and
believes that the failure of the authorities of Taloja Jail to provide him with prompt adequate
medical care and basic facilities whilst detained has subjected the human rights defender to further
risk and suffering, leading to a deterioration of his condition. Front Line Defenders condemns the
treatment and detention without trial of Hany Babu, which the organisation believes is directly
linked to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work.


Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:

  1. Immediately grant medical bail to Hany Babu in light of his deteriorating health condition
    and the risk posed by the spread of COVID-19 in Taloja jail;
  2. Provide Hany Babu with medical treatment at a hospital with a specialist from the
    ophthalmology department, as a matter of urgency to safeguard his health and prevent
    further damage to his organs;
  3. Grant the family of Hany Babu access to the human rights defender, which would enable
    them to obtain a second medical opinion in consultation with the defender, on his diagnosis
    and treatment;
  4. Ensure that the treatment of Hany Babu while in detention, adheres to the conditions set
    out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention
    or Imprisonment’, adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December
    1988;
  5. Pending his release, ensure that the family and legal counsel of Hany Babu be granted
    regular access and provided with all information regarding his medical condition and
    treatment.

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