The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has written to Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil to consider shifting Father Stan Swamy, the 84-year-old Jesuit priest who is currently lodged in Taloja jail, to a good hospital. Fr. Stan, has spent decades living in Jharkhand and “has spent his entire life fighting for Adivasi rights and the rights of the underprivileged” recalled the Mahasabha. They reminded the government that he suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and thus “has trouble drinking from a glass, taking bath and washing clothes on his own” apart from the fact that he also has multiple chronic health conditions.
As reported, on May 14, Fr. Stan over a phone call shared that he was unwell, and feeling very weak. This was for the first time since his arrest, that he had reportedly spoken about his own fragile health. According to reports as “he was too weak even to speak on the phone and his condition had to be described by others” who confirmed that Stan has fever, cough and a running stomach. According to the reports Stan was “given antibiotics by the ayurvedic doctor of the jail” but that did not help much. He is yet to be tested for Covid. He has also not yet received his first vaccine shot. Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has asked the state government to consider urgently shifting Fr. Stan Swamy to a proper hospital for treatment. The letter is also copied to Chief Minister, Maharashtra Udhav Thackeray, and Minister of State for Home (Urban) Satej Patil.
Earlier, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), had also written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackerey, urging him to recommend the release of BK-15 accused on interim bail to the high-power committee. After learning about some harrowing accounts of the detainees in Taloja and Byculla jails, CJP has urged the government to release them for adequate treatment and care. CJP’s petition also highlights the condition of Father Stan Swamy, who usually prefers to bear his pain quietly lest he alarm others. The Jesuit Priest was denied bail in March despite being afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, had undergone hernia operations prior to his incarceration, that is now causing him excruciating abdominal pain. During his last call with his colleague Father Xavier, Swamy had complained of cough, fever, runny stomach with no respite.
The CJP petition also mentions the other political prisoners who are now very unwell behind bars, and are highly vulnerable to Covid-19, including 60-year-old Sudha Bharadwaj, who already suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and her teeth are in such a state she can barely manage to eat. “She has lost hair, weight and last year a report showed she is eczemic. After receiving a vaccine shot on May 7, she suffered severe diarrhoea for three weeks, body weakness, tastelessness. Meanwhile, jail authorities only offered antibiotics that had little effect on his condition,”.
CJP’s letter also mentions the deteriorating health of Advocate Surendra Gadling who was not given the spectacles his wife tried to send him. In July 2020, he showed Covid-symptoms and worried about loose motions and severe cough but did not receive any medication. Similarly, Mahesh Raut also could not receive a thermometer and oximeter sent by his sister, as the jail authorities refused to accept it. The CJP letter petition also points at the apathy of the jail authorities who are not following court orders as no family has received a 20-minute video call from any of the BK-15. As for audio calls, close friends and kin have only managed three-to-four-minute calls as opposed to the expected minimum-10-minute calls. Even letters arrive a month late both inside and outside jails after heavy scrutiny by officials.
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has also expressed concerns about reports of rising Covid cases in the Taloja jail, and urged that “Stan should be immediately shifted to a good hospital and given adequate medical treatment” as he “is an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others.” Similar appeals for Fr. Stan have been made earlier by Adivasi groups, Gram Sabhas, civil society, several political leaders and parties, stated the Mahasabha who also hope he gets bail, adding that Jharkhand’s Chief Minister has also “expressed support and solidarity” with Fr. Stan.
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