Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon accused struggle to find house in city
Getting a house in and around the city has been a challenge - both due to financial reasons as well as the fact that they were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and charged under sections of the UAPA for alleged Naxalite links
Mumbai: The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Elgar Parishad - Bhima Koregaon violence case accused Gautam Navlakha for a month’s house arrest on account of his old age and ill health.
One of his friends in Navi Mumbai has agreed to provide him residential premises for this duration.
Navlakha is lucky when it comes to finding an accommodation. Others arrested in the case, however, have not been so fortunate after securing bail and were forced to stay in Mumbai.
Getting a house in and around the city has been a challenge - both due to financial reasons as well as the fact that they were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and charged under sections of the UAPA for alleged Naxalite links.
For example, finding a house in Mumbai had been a task for Telugu poet Varavara Rao after he was released from prison on temporary bail on medical grounds on February 22, 2021 pursuant to the Bombay high court orders.
Though initially the bail was only for a period of six months, it was extended by the high court from time to time and eventually confirmed by the Supreme Court.
“It was a tough task. We somehow managed to get a house on rent in Malad for temporary accommodation for six months as the owner was headed to Germany for studies. But, when she returned, we had to vacate,” Rao’s nephew Venugopal Rao said.
“House hunting in Mumbai had been a tough task, especially when it comes to the rent,” Venugopal said, adding that the present house is their fourth accommodation in one and a half year so far.
After leaving Malad, they had to start their hunt again. “It was only after the help of a friend of Jesuit priest, late father Stan Swamy, who too was arrested in the case, they got a permission to stay in an accommodation in Bandra which was a sort of hostel reserved for classes and other activities. But again, it was temporary and they were required vacate it after three months,” Venugopal added.
Common friends suggested an accommodation in Goregaon slums. “They were not at all comfortable with that life style, but we had no choice till we found a better place. Finally, after few months we found a better house but rent has been so high,” Venugopal said.
Talking about difficult financial times for Rao, Venugopal said, “Rao was a lecturer and gets a pension of ₹50,000 to ₹60,000 a month. His monthly expenses of ₹1 lakh are way beyond his pension. His daughter and some other close relatives contribute.”
In one of his pleas filed before the special NIA court, Varavara Rao had stated that after his release he was required to pay rent of ₹68,000 per month and his living expenses crossed ₹80,000 a month, excluding amount on his medication and treatment.
In Navlakha’s case a friend has agreed to provide temporary accommodation during the “house arrest period.”
“We have been asked to make arrangements in next 48 hours. Presently a friend of ours is helping with accommodation but for subsequent arrangements we will only think about after the court order,” said Navlakha’s partner Sahba Hussain.
Happy with the fact that Navlakha would be out from prison, Hussain said, “I am happy that he will be out. Since I am allowed to be with him, he would be better looked after. I hope he recovers soon.”
The situation was no better for Sudha Bharadwaj when she was released on default bail in December 2021 and with the bail condition ordering her to stay within special NIA court jurisdiction. Till date, she has shifted houses thrice.
“The first two houses were in Thane and applications had to be filed in the court before she could move in each time, as it was outside Mumbai. Only recently, she has moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Oshiwara,” said Bharadwaj’s daughter Maaysha Singh.
Apart from the financial strain that comes from renting a house in Mumbai, the accused in the case have also had to deal with the stigma that comes with being charged under a law as stringent as the UAPA, and the charges of allegedly orchestrating violence as well as planning anti-national activities.
Even after getting a house, the accused have had to regularly appear before the local police station - something that does not go unnoticed by house owners. Further, officials with the NIA periodically call the house owners as part of their own routine checks, which adds to their stress.