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Fr Stan Swamy’s death highlights the need to repeal UAPA

This tragic death has also once again brought to light jail conditions endured by the others accused in the case

Sabrangindia 06 Jul 2021

Father Stan Swamy’s death while in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), has reignited the debate on the deplorable conditions in Taloja prison, and in prisons across the country, even as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on. 

“Fr Stan suffered painfully before he succumbed. His illness and death could have been avoided. Arguably, it was the inherently pathetic conditions at Taloja jail, followed by an obdurate web of deceit woven by the jail bureaucracy and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that simply did not admit to this condition,” wrote Teesta Setalvad, soon after the news of his demise was made public. The moving tribute to the 84-year-old priest and human rights defender was one of the first to call out “The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy”.

In October 2020 Setalvad, secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) held a virtual conversation with, Human right activist and Jesuit priest, Father Cedric Prakash, and former principal of St Xavier’s College, Father Frazer Mascarenhas to discussed the arrest of the octogenarian human rights defender, who was the oldest arrested in the Bhima Koregaon Conspiracy case. CJP, along with many activists and citizens had condemned Fr. Stan Swamy’s arrest.

A death foretold

Months of suffering later, Father Stan Swamy passed away awaiting bail, and his death was announced in court by Dr. Aaron D’Souza of Holy Family Hospital, as the hearing was underway. The ailing human rights defender was put on ventilator support on Saturday, and suffered a cardiac arrest early morning on Monday July 5. The news stunned the court into a moment of silence, stated reports, and as soon as the news was made public, waves of shock, followed by grief were felt across the world among those who, like Stan, believe in human rights and dignity for all, and speak up for the oppressed.  

By evening, a memorial meeting was held online in the memory of Fr Stan Swamy, attended by over a thousand people, and his life was celebrated by his close friends, lawyers, activists, and members of the civil society. Each recalling his commitment to welfare of Adivasis, and rededicating themselves to the legacy of Fr. Stan Swamy: The Jharkhand Priest who made People his Religion.

On Monday, friends and family prepare to virtually attend Fr Stan’s funeral service in keeping with Covid-19 protocol. Fr Stan’s tragic death has also once again highlighted the condition of the remaining accused in the case, many of whom are also suffering ill health while behind bars. Friends and family members of those accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, who remain behind bars, have issued a joint statement mourning the loss of Father Stan Swamy. They stated that were “deeply pained and shaken to the core” and that this was “not a natural death, but the institutional murder of a gentle soul, committed by an inhuman state. Having spent his life amongst the Adivasis in Jharkhand, fighting for their right to resources and lands, Father Stan did not deserve to die in this manner, far from his beloved Jharkhand, falsely imprisoned by a vindictive state.” The statement was issued by: Minal Gadling, Roy Wilson, Monali Raut, Koel Sen, Harshali Potdar, Sharad Gaikwad, Maaysha Singh, Y Ferreira, Susan Abraham, P Hemlatha, Sahba Husain, Rama Teltumbde, Jenny Rowena, Surekha Gorkhe, Pranali Parab, Rupali Jadhav and Fr. Joe Xavier. 

Father Stan inspired everyone 

Father Stan was the last of the 16, to be arrested, accused, and jailed, where the rest remain. Some tested positive for Covid-19, while others suffer from health issues which have only gotten worse in the jail circumstances. Varavara Rao was granted bail  for 6 months, in the Bhima Koregaon case where he was charged under Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act (UAPA), by the Bombay High Court bench of Justice Manish Pitale and Justice SS Shinde on February 22.  

According to the families and friends of the jailed activists who have come to be known as “BK-16”, Father Stan “despite his feeble health, he inspired everyone with the strength of his character and his unshakeable integrity. Even as his health degraded in the prison, his thoughts and prayers were always with his co-prisoners.” In his letters from jail, Fr Stan never complained but wrote about the other prisoners. “Listening to the life-narratives of the poor prisoners is my joy in Taloja. I see God in their pains and smiles,” he had written in one of his early letters, even as he waited for a sipper-tumbler that would help him drink water as his Parkinson’s Disease was at an advanced stage and his hands shook. Always placing others before himself, Fr Stan wrote, “Varavara Rao is very sick. Kindly, pray for him. “

The NIA had initially sought 20 days to respond to his straightforward application for a sipper mug to drink liquids because the octogenarian was unable to hold a cup or a glass as his hands shook due to Parkinson’s Disease. It was only after a month that he received the sipper for his basic needs.

The families of those still in jail stated that while remembering Fr Stan’s gentleness, humanity and compassion, they “cannot forget the immense injustice of his detention. It is unconscionable that someone of his age and ill-health was put in the prison in the first place, and that too, in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. The investigation against him was already complete by the time that he was arrested on October 8, 2020, and he was clearly not a flight risk. His arrest and subsequent detention in Taloja Prison in Navi Mumbai was already a death sentence pronounced against him.” 

They recalled that even the ‘documents’ found on the accused computers were “surreptitiously planted was firmly upheld through the stunning disclosures of Arsenal Consulting and Washington Post made public earlier this year, which clearly detailed the method through which incriminating documents had been remotely planted on the computers of the Bhima Koregaon accused using the Netwire malware,” adding that they were “outraged that Father Stan had to pay the price of this malicious fabrication of evidence with his life.”

Fr Stan’s health deteriorated in prison, but medical bail plea was denied

They stated how even after Fr Stan’s health deteriorated in prison, his medical bail plea was “mechanically turned down by the same blind, unfeeling and insensitive NIA court.” The NIA court had denied Fr Stan medical bail on March 22. In November 2020 year, the Jesuit Priest had moved court for bail citing medical grounds. The then 83-year-old Parkinson’s afflicted tribal rights activist suffered hearing loss in both ears and had an arm injury too.

“We cannot forget the heartbreaking speech of Father Stan before the High Court during his medical bail appeal, where he gave a moving account of his deteriorating health. He told the court in no uncertain terms that he did not expect to live long and wished to die amongst his people in Bagaicha, Ranchi. It is appalling that such a simple request could not be met by our judicial system,” wrote the families in their public statement. 

They stated that they held “the negligent jails, the indifferent courts and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death” adding that they “fear for the health and lives of our family members and colleagues, who are facing the similar injustices in the same jails, under the same unaccountable system.” 

As Setalvad wrote, “The NIA directly under India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the agency that has been particularly venal in this case, the conduct of Maharashtra’s jail authorities and bureaucracy that has laced their defence of prison conditions with falsehoods not borne out by fact, needs special focus” and made “an unequivocal demand for the Repeal of the UAPA.”

The families of those who remain in jail have stated that they “refuse to be silent spectators and are ready to pay the price!” Words made immortal by Father Stan himself.

Related:

The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy
Father Stan Swamy passes away waiting for bail
Bombay HC directs Fr. Stan Swamy to be shifted to Holy Family Hospital for 2 weeks
Stan takes a stand 
Stand with Father Stan Swamy
Stan Swamy: The oldest activist to be targeted by the government

 

Fr Stan Swamy’s death highlights the need to repeal UAPA

This tragic death has also once again brought to light jail conditions endured by the others accused in the case

Father Stan Swamy’s death while in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), has reignited the debate on the deplorable conditions in Taloja prison, and in prisons across the country, even as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on. 

“Fr Stan suffered painfully before he succumbed. His illness and death could have been avoided. Arguably, it was the inherently pathetic conditions at Taloja jail, followed by an obdurate web of deceit woven by the jail bureaucracy and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that simply did not admit to this condition,” wrote Teesta Setalvad, soon after the news of his demise was made public. The moving tribute to the 84-year-old priest and human rights defender was one of the first to call out “The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy”.

In October 2020 Setalvad, secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) held a virtual conversation with, Human right activist and Jesuit priest, Father Cedric Prakash, and former principal of St Xavier’s College, Father Frazer Mascarenhas to discussed the arrest of the octogenarian human rights defender, who was the oldest arrested in the Bhima Koregaon Conspiracy case. CJP, along with many activists and citizens had condemned Fr. Stan Swamy’s arrest.

A death foretold

Months of suffering later, Father Stan Swamy passed away awaiting bail, and his death was announced in court by Dr. Aaron D’Souza of Holy Family Hospital, as the hearing was underway. The ailing human rights defender was put on ventilator support on Saturday, and suffered a cardiac arrest early morning on Monday July 5. The news stunned the court into a moment of silence, stated reports, and as soon as the news was made public, waves of shock, followed by grief were felt across the world among those who, like Stan, believe in human rights and dignity for all, and speak up for the oppressed.  

By evening, a memorial meeting was held online in the memory of Fr Stan Swamy, attended by over a thousand people, and his life was celebrated by his close friends, lawyers, activists, and members of the civil society. Each recalling his commitment to welfare of Adivasis, and rededicating themselves to the legacy of Fr. Stan Swamy: The Jharkhand Priest who made People his Religion.

On Monday, friends and family prepare to virtually attend Fr Stan’s funeral service in keeping with Covid-19 protocol. Fr Stan’s tragic death has also once again highlighted the condition of the remaining accused in the case, many of whom are also suffering ill health while behind bars. Friends and family members of those accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, who remain behind bars, have issued a joint statement mourning the loss of Father Stan Swamy. They stated that were “deeply pained and shaken to the core” and that this was “not a natural death, but the institutional murder of a gentle soul, committed by an inhuman state. Having spent his life amongst the Adivasis in Jharkhand, fighting for their right to resources and lands, Father Stan did not deserve to die in this manner, far from his beloved Jharkhand, falsely imprisoned by a vindictive state.” The statement was issued by: Minal Gadling, Roy Wilson, Monali Raut, Koel Sen, Harshali Potdar, Sharad Gaikwad, Maaysha Singh, Y Ferreira, Susan Abraham, P Hemlatha, Sahba Husain, Rama Teltumbde, Jenny Rowena, Surekha Gorkhe, Pranali Parab, Rupali Jadhav and Fr. Joe Xavier. 

Father Stan inspired everyone 

Father Stan was the last of the 16, to be arrested, accused, and jailed, where the rest remain. Some tested positive for Covid-19, while others suffer from health issues which have only gotten worse in the jail circumstances. Varavara Rao was granted bail  for 6 months, in the Bhima Koregaon case where he was charged under Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act (UAPA), by the Bombay High Court bench of Justice Manish Pitale and Justice SS Shinde on February 22.  

According to the families and friends of the jailed activists who have come to be known as “BK-16”, Father Stan “despite his feeble health, he inspired everyone with the strength of his character and his unshakeable integrity. Even as his health degraded in the prison, his thoughts and prayers were always with his co-prisoners.” In his letters from jail, Fr Stan never complained but wrote about the other prisoners. “Listening to the life-narratives of the poor prisoners is my joy in Taloja. I see God in their pains and smiles,” he had written in one of his early letters, even as he waited for a sipper-tumbler that would help him drink water as his Parkinson’s Disease was at an advanced stage and his hands shook. Always placing others before himself, Fr Stan wrote, “Varavara Rao is very sick. Kindly, pray for him. “

The NIA had initially sought 20 days to respond to his straightforward application for a sipper mug to drink liquids because the octogenarian was unable to hold a cup or a glass as his hands shook due to Parkinson’s Disease. It was only after a month that he received the sipper for his basic needs.

The families of those still in jail stated that while remembering Fr Stan’s gentleness, humanity and compassion, they “cannot forget the immense injustice of his detention. It is unconscionable that someone of his age and ill-health was put in the prison in the first place, and that too, in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. The investigation against him was already complete by the time that he was arrested on October 8, 2020, and he was clearly not a flight risk. His arrest and subsequent detention in Taloja Prison in Navi Mumbai was already a death sentence pronounced against him.” 

They recalled that even the ‘documents’ found on the accused computers were “surreptitiously planted was firmly upheld through the stunning disclosures of Arsenal Consulting and Washington Post made public earlier this year, which clearly detailed the method through which incriminating documents had been remotely planted on the computers of the Bhima Koregaon accused using the Netwire malware,” adding that they were “outraged that Father Stan had to pay the price of this malicious fabrication of evidence with his life.”

Fr Stan’s health deteriorated in prison, but medical bail plea was denied

They stated how even after Fr Stan’s health deteriorated in prison, his medical bail plea was “mechanically turned down by the same blind, unfeeling and insensitive NIA court.” The NIA court had denied Fr Stan medical bail on March 22. In November 2020 year, the Jesuit Priest had moved court for bail citing medical grounds. The then 83-year-old Parkinson’s afflicted tribal rights activist suffered hearing loss in both ears and had an arm injury too.

“We cannot forget the heartbreaking speech of Father Stan before the High Court during his medical bail appeal, where he gave a moving account of his deteriorating health. He told the court in no uncertain terms that he did not expect to live long and wished to die amongst his people in Bagaicha, Ranchi. It is appalling that such a simple request could not be met by our judicial system,” wrote the families in their public statement. 

They stated that they held “the negligent jails, the indifferent courts and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death” adding that they “fear for the health and lives of our family members and colleagues, who are facing the similar injustices in the same jails, under the same unaccountable system.” 

As Setalvad wrote, “The NIA directly under India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the agency that has been particularly venal in this case, the conduct of Maharashtra’s jail authorities and bureaucracy that has laced their defence of prison conditions with falsehoods not borne out by fact, needs special focus” and made “an unequivocal demand for the Repeal of the UAPA.”

The families of those who remain in jail have stated that they “refuse to be silent spectators and are ready to pay the price!” Words made immortal by Father Stan himself.

Related:

The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy
Father Stan Swamy passes away waiting for bail
Bombay HC directs Fr. Stan Swamy to be shifted to Holy Family Hospital for 2 weeks
Stan takes a stand 
Stand with Father Stan Swamy
Stan Swamy: The oldest activist to be targeted by the government

 

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