Losing one’s eyesight can be the worst punishment to be meted out to a university professor. This may happen in the case of professor Hany Babu, currently lodged in Taloja Central jail in Maharashtra, if the authorities fail to take immediate action.
Hany Babu, an associate professor of English at Delhi University, who has been in jail since July 2020 for his alleged connection in the Bhima Koregaon case, is suffering from an acute eye infection that causes double vision and severe pain. According to his family members, who have released a statement, Babu has little or no vision in his left eye due to swelling, which poses “a significant risk to his life if it spreads to the brain”. They alleged that despite repeated requests, the jail authorities have refused to provide him with adequate medical care citing reasons that no officers are available to escort him to the hospital.
Hany Babu’s family members have now requested the Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinayari Vijayan to intervene on this matter and ensure that he gets medical treatment.
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A representation was given to the CM by Babu’s mother Fathima, daughter Farzana, wife Jenny Rowena who is also a teacher at Delhi University and his brothers, M T Ansari ( a professor at Hyderabad University) and M T Harish, a doctor at Calicut Medical College.
In the representation, the family members stated that they had been informed Hany Babu had a serious infection in his left eye on May 3, which had soon developed into double vision and severe pain. Since the prison Medical Officer had already informed Babu that the prison did not have adequate facilities to treat his eye infection, he had immediately requested for consultation and treatment with a specialised doctor. However, he was not taken for consultation since an escort officer was not available.
“It was only after his lawyers sent an email on May 6 to the Superintendent, Taloja Jail that he was taken to a Government Hospital in Vashi on May 7. At the Vashi Government Hospital, Hany Babu was examined by an ophthalmologist, prescribed certain anti-bacterial medication, and advised to return for follow-up treatment in two days. Whilst his condition deteriorated alarmingly, he was still not taken back to the hospital after two days,” stated the representation.
Pointing out that the constitutional rights entitled to a prisoner are being grossly violated in Babu’s case, Jenny Rowena told the Federal, “The swelling and infection in his eye had started developing since May 3. I came to know about it only on May 7, when I was allowed to talk to him over the phone. Though the court has given instruction that I am allowed to talk to him once a week, the jail authorities often do not follow it. They make it very difficult even for the lawyer to meet him or to talk to him on the phone.”
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According to the family’s representation, “He (Babu) is no longer able to make out shapes or colours. The area around his left eye, cheek and forehead is still swollen and there is pus coming out of his infected eye. The left side of his head and face are numb and there is a burning sensation in his ear and cheeks. The paracetamol given to him is not helping because of the extreme pain. Sir, we are extremely worried that the eye infection will lead to irreparable damage to his eye. In fact, with the swelling and numbness, it is highly likely the infection can spread to his right eye and even impact the brain. At present, he is also not able to apply the medications given to him without help, especially at night. Further, we are told that there is a water shortage in Taloja Jail and he is not getting sufficient water to clean the towels and to wash his eyes. He is forced to use soiled towels.”
The family member alleged that Babu, his lawyers and family have been repeatedly requesting the jail authorities to take him to a good hospital after the initial check-up. However, despite the seriousness of the situation, the Taloja jail authorities have not moved on this matter.
“We were promised that he would be taken for a specialised consultation on May 11, 2021. But, after repeated calls to the prison, our lawyers were informed by the Taloja jail authorities that Hany Babu was not taken to any hospital, once again, due to the lack of escort officers. Neither the lawyer nor any of us were allowed to talk to Hany Babu directly. And, we are being kept in the dark about his real condition,” said the statement.
The family members have urged the Chief Minister to urgently intervene in the matter, as any delay would cause a complete loss of eye sight and trigger further complications in the other parts of the brain as well.