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From Bujha Singh to Stan Swamy: A story of institutional apathy

The State has proved that it doesn’t care for seniors when it comes to suppressing any voice of dissent

Gurpreet Singh 07 Jul 2021

Fr Stan SwamyImage Courtesy:countercurrents.org

July 5, 2021 will go down as another dark day in the history of the world’s so-called largest democracy. It was then that an 84-year-old Jesuit priest Stan Swamy died in the custody of the Indian state, while waiting for his bail. He was moved to a hospital after contracting Covid-19 and died of cardiac arrest.  

Swamy had worked among the Adivasis or indigeous people in Jharkhand and was vocal against their repression, as they faced eviction from their traditional lands by the extraction industry, allegedly with the backing of the government. He was arrested under trumped up charges after being accused of terrorism for merely standing up for the marginalised. 

His health had deteriorated in the jail during the pandemic, and yet the authorities remained adamant not to release him even on humanitarian grounds. He was one of those scholars who were arrested on malicious charges to suppress any voice of dissent at the behest of the current right-wing Hindutva nationalist regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

Swamy’s demise coincides with the 51st anniversary of the extra-judicial killing of an 82-year-old former Indian freedom fighter Bujha Singh, who had died in police custody on July 28, 1970. Singh who had participated in the struggle to rid India of the British occupation, was instead murdered by the police for his association with revolutionary communist movement sparked by an uprising of landless tillers, who’ve been fighting against the rich and the elites since the 1960s.

Following an uprising in the Naxalbari village of West Bengal by poor farmers, who claimed a right to the land, there was a campaign of police repression. People like Singh joined the radical movement. All reports indicate that he died in a staged shootout by Punjab police under a different regime.  

Half century later, the history of Singh was repeated in the form of what many have called as an “institutional murder” of Swamy. It is pertinent to mention here that an 81-year-old Telugu poet and political activist, Varavara Rao continues to be incarcerated under brutal conditions even as he was recently tested positive for Covid-19. Like Swamy and Singh, Rao had also dared to question the power and stand up for the Underdog.  

All this only reflects poorly on India’s democracy, and flies in the face of Modi who had called for fighting Corona with Karuna (compassion). After all, his government remained indifferent to a petition seeking unconditional release of political prisoners due to the spread of the pandemic in Indian jails.  

Rather than trying to get to the bottom of the problem of social unrest caused by systemic injustice and inequality, the state is going after veterans such as Singh, Swamy or Rao, to instil fear in the minds of political dissidents. And to achieve that end, Indian officials can go to any length.

It’s a shame that Indian society claims to be respectful of its seniors, but remains insensitive to these horrific stories. The tales of these two men shows that the Indian system’s brutal side remains unchanged even as the disparity between the rich and the poor has grown over the past 50 years. There is no respite to the most underprivileged and underserved, despite tall claims of development and progress. 

Related:

Father Stan Swamy passes away waiting for bail
Covid-19 a virtual death sentence, new persecution tool against Bhima-Koregaon accused

From Bujha Singh to Stan Swamy: A story of institutional apathy

The State has proved that it doesn’t care for seniors when it comes to suppressing any voice of dissent

Fr Stan SwamyImage Courtesy:countercurrents.org

July 5, 2021 will go down as another dark day in the history of the world’s so-called largest democracy. It was then that an 84-year-old Jesuit priest Stan Swamy died in the custody of the Indian state, while waiting for his bail. He was moved to a hospital after contracting Covid-19 and died of cardiac arrest.  

Swamy had worked among the Adivasis or indigeous people in Jharkhand and was vocal against their repression, as they faced eviction from their traditional lands by the extraction industry, allegedly with the backing of the government. He was arrested under trumped up charges after being accused of terrorism for merely standing up for the marginalised. 

His health had deteriorated in the jail during the pandemic, and yet the authorities remained adamant not to release him even on humanitarian grounds. He was one of those scholars who were arrested on malicious charges to suppress any voice of dissent at the behest of the current right-wing Hindutva nationalist regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

Swamy’s demise coincides with the 51st anniversary of the extra-judicial killing of an 82-year-old former Indian freedom fighter Bujha Singh, who had died in police custody on July 28, 1970. Singh who had participated in the struggle to rid India of the British occupation, was instead murdered by the police for his association with revolutionary communist movement sparked by an uprising of landless tillers, who’ve been fighting against the rich and the elites since the 1960s.

Following an uprising in the Naxalbari village of West Bengal by poor farmers, who claimed a right to the land, there was a campaign of police repression. People like Singh joined the radical movement. All reports indicate that he died in a staged shootout by Punjab police under a different regime.  

Half century later, the history of Singh was repeated in the form of what many have called as an “institutional murder” of Swamy. It is pertinent to mention here that an 81-year-old Telugu poet and political activist, Varavara Rao continues to be incarcerated under brutal conditions even as he was recently tested positive for Covid-19. Like Swamy and Singh, Rao had also dared to question the power and stand up for the Underdog.  

All this only reflects poorly on India’s democracy, and flies in the face of Modi who had called for fighting Corona with Karuna (compassion). After all, his government remained indifferent to a petition seeking unconditional release of political prisoners due to the spread of the pandemic in Indian jails.  

Rather than trying to get to the bottom of the problem of social unrest caused by systemic injustice and inequality, the state is going after veterans such as Singh, Swamy or Rao, to instil fear in the minds of political dissidents. And to achieve that end, Indian officials can go to any length.

It’s a shame that Indian society claims to be respectful of its seniors, but remains insensitive to these horrific stories. The tales of these two men shows that the Indian system’s brutal side remains unchanged even as the disparity between the rich and the poor has grown over the past 50 years. There is no respite to the most underprivileged and underserved, despite tall claims of development and progress. 

Related:

Father Stan Swamy passes away waiting for bail
Covid-19 a virtual death sentence, new persecution tool against Bhima-Koregaon accused

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