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Poet-activist Varavara Rao, accused in Elgar Parishad case, tests positive for COVID-19

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Mumbai, July 16: Jailed poet and activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, has tested positive for COVID-19, a hospital official said on Thursday.

Poet-activist Varavara Rao tests positive for COVID-19

The 80-year-old, lodged in the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai under judicial custody, was admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital here earlier this week. Rao is asymptomatic and has general weakness, said Dr Ranjeet Mankeshwar, dean of the JJ Hospital. The poet-activist's medical report came on Thursday and he was found to be coronavirus positive, he said.

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"He has been found positive for COVID-19, but his condition is stable, no symptoms of COVID-19 have been found, he is having general weakness," said Mankeshwar.

"His treatment is going on," he said. It was a routine swab check that was done on Tuesday after he was admitted to JJ Hospital and claims made by his family members that he is not getting proper medical care were not true, the official maintained. "We are providing best health facilities to him and by late (Thursday) night he may be shifted to St George Hospital (another state-run hospital) for further treatment," said Mankeshwar.

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    Rao, who hails from Telangana, was shifted to the government-run hospital in south Mumbai on Monday night after he complained of giddiness and was later admitted to its neurology department. Rao's family members along with several writers and activists had asked the Maharashtra government to immediately shift him to hospital for treatment, citing his deteriorating health condition.

    NCP leader and minister Jitendra Awhad had also demanded that Rao be shifted to hospital. Rao's family members on Sunday sought the jail authorities to provide him immediate medical care and claimed that when the veteran activist contacted them last week, he was in a "delirious state and hallucinating".

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    Rao has been in jail for about 22 months and had earlier approached the special NIA court, seeking bail on medical grounds and the prevailing COVID-19 situation. On Monday, Rao filed two petitions in the Bombay High Court, seeking temporary bail owing to his ill-health and a direction to the jail authorities to produce his medical records and admit him to a state-run or private hospital.

    Rao and nine other activists have been arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, wh

    ich was initially probed by the Pune Police and later transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The case related to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial. The police have also claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

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