Poet Varavara Rao has been held in jail since 2018 and has been consistently denied bail. Varavara Rao is 81 years old. His health is deteriorating. He is old. He is frail. He is ill. When he speaks with his loved ones what he says does not make much sense. Those taking care of him are concerned. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging and the government has ordered the decongestion of jails to prevent the infection from spreading, there is an even greater risk to Varavara Rao’s health.
In a civilised society that respects the elderly, cares for the sick, honours its poets, and has room for those who dissent, Varavara Rao would have had the freedom to be with those who love him. But because the state has not yet examined what it calls evidence against him, and because, apparently, it fears he might disappear during the time of a pandemic and lockdown, it refuses to let him be free. It is for the judiciary to do the right thing and display humanity. Justice has to follow due process, and the process is meaningless without mercy.
It is clear that there is no danger of Varavara Rao jumping bail. His most ardent wish at this time is to be with his family: Why would he want to run away? At a moment when health and survival are uppermost in everyone’s minds, the state must rise to the occasion and save the life of this ailing poet.