Wednesday 28 July 2021 ,
Latest News
10 July, 2021 07:35:09 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 July, 2021 07:37:14 PM


DATELINE INDIA: A sipper and a straw

“What is happening to me is not unique. Many activists, lawyers, writers, journalists, student leaders, poets, intellectuals and others who stand for the rights of adivasis, Dalits and the marginalised and express their dissent to the ruling powers of the country are being targeted”.
DATELINE INDIA: A sipper and a straw

“I would die soon” he had told the Court and he did. Neither his bail nor his plea for a straw and sipper were heard when they should have been by the Court.
Father Stan Swamy died the same day when his medical bail plea was scheduled to be heard in the Bombay high court.
Ironically, even as the court took up his bail plea hearing on Monday, Stan Swamy's lawyer told the bench that the medical condition of the 84-year-old deteriorated late Sunday night.

He went into cardiac arrest at 4.30 am and couldn't be revived, the lawyer said.
Had the Cabinet expansion not happened, the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was under fire for the death of a Jesuit priest Stan Swamy. Thanks to the expansion, headlines shifted from Swamy’s death to who is in and who is out in Modi’s government.
Under arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) since October last year, Swamy was initially lodged in the Taloja Central Jail where his condition deteriorated. The 84-year had several ailments including Parkinson’s disease.
His fight for a straw and sipper has moved even the cruellest, yet the Court took its time to pass orders.
On November 6, last year, Father Swamy filed an application seeking permission to allow him a straw and sipper in Taloja Central Jail as he was unable to hold a glass because he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. The National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s lawyers sought a good 20-days-time to file a reply on a purely humanitarian plea which the Court granted.
Swamy’s medical plea had stated that he has almost lost his hearing ability, fallen in jail multiple times, been operated on for a hernia twice and still has pain in his lower abdomen. His lawyer told a special court in Mumbai that he has been finding it difficult to even hold a cup due to Parkinson’s.
Through their pleas filed in Court, they complained several times of neglect on the part of the Taloja prison authorities in ensuring medical aid, timely tests and maintaining hygiene and social distancing

He prayed to be released on interim bail at that time and said if things continued the way they were he “would die soon”. 

The 84-year-old Jesuit priest, hospitalised on May 30 following the directions of the Bombay High Court, was put on ventilator support last Sunday.

Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on October 8, 2020 for his alleged involvement in violence during January 2018 events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. 

The incident dates back to January 1, 2018 when lakhs of Dalits had gathered near Pune to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, which was won by the British army — largely comprising soldiers from the Dalit community — against the Peshwas in 1818. There was violence, with vehicles of those assembled being burnt, and assaults on them.

On January 8, the Pune police filed an FIR claiming that the violence took place due to an event held on December 31, 2017 called Elgar Parishad at Shaniwar Wada in Pune. The Pune police arrested activists claiming that the event was organised as part of alleged Maoist activity, and that the accused were involved in it.

The Elgar Parishad case is related to inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city. The police had claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

In the case, Stan Swamy and his co-accused were charged by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as being members of frontal organisations working on behalf of the banned CPI (Maoists).

The NIA had arrested Swamy from Ranchi on October 7 last year, and brought him to Mumbai the next day. Interestingly, instead of the NIA seeking his custody, Swamy was sent to judicial custody till October 23. 

Said Swamy: “What is happening to me is not unique. Many activists, lawyers, writers, journalists, student leaders, poets, intellectuals and others who stand for the rights of adivasis, Dalits and the marginalised and express their dissent to the ruling powers of the country are being targeted”.

Swamy had worked for over three decades on various issues of the adivasi communities on land, forest and labour rights. He had also questioned the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which stipulated setting up of a Tribes Advisory Council with members solely of the adivasi community for their protection, well-being and development in the state.

Swamy’s work also involved opposition to the setting up of “land banks”, which he argued would free up land belonging to the community to set up small and big industries. Swamy’s statement says that his work involved expressing dissent with several policies of the government, and laws enacted in violation of the Constitution.

“This, I believe, is the main reason why the state is keen to put me out of the way. The most feasible way is to implicate me in serious cases and stall the judicial process to give justice to the poor innocent adivasis,” the statement said.

Swamy was questioned multiple times by the NIA, including at the Jesuit residence in Bagaicha. Searches were also conducted at his residence with the NIA claiming his links to Maoist forces. In the charge-sheet, the agency claimed that he was a CPI (Maoist) cadre and was actively involved in its activities. It was also claimed that he was in communication with other cadres and had received funds from them.

Swamy said that the NIA placed several extracts before him claiming they were taken from his computer implicating his connection to Maoists which Swamy said were fabricated. He also denied allegations of Maoist links, and said in the video that he has never been to Bhima Koregaon.

In the affidavit that the NIA filed it said that Swamy had hatched a conspiracy to create unrest in the country. 

Swamy’s death has the government on a backfoot. Even while it is defending itself on grounds that the law took its course, it is in the eye of a storm: “Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law,” Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of the MEA said, adding that because of the specific nature of charges against him, his bail applications were rejected by the courts.

Asserting that India remains committed to the promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens, the MEA said the country's democratic polity is complemented by an independent judiciary and a range of national and state-level human rights commissions.

That notwithstanding India continued to draw flak from the international community over incarcerated priest-activist Stan Swamy’s death, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to ensure that no one is detained for exercising their rights for freedom of expression.

As if this was not enough, others too came down heavily on the Indian government with Nadine Maenza, president of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), saying that the elderly priest and human rights activist had been “imprisoned on false terrorism charges”.

“The news from India today is devastating. Human Rights Defender and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy has died in custody, nine months after his arrest on false charges of terrorism. Jailing HRDs is inexcusable,” tweeted Mary Lawlor, a UN Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders.

Eamon Gilmore, the EU’s Special Representative for Human Rights, re-tweeted Lawlor’s post. “India: I am very saddened to hear that Father Stan Swamy has passed away. A defender of indigenous peoples’ rights. He was held in detention for the past 9 months. The EU had been raising his case repeatedly with authorities,” he wrote. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet and the UN’s independent experts have repeatedly raised the issue stating that he had been held in pre-trial detention without bail since his arrest. 

Even as India rejected mounting international criticism, Opposition parties attacked the government in the same tone though with different voices.

The Congress and other Opposition parties demanded accountability with Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren stating that the Union government should be answerable for “absolute apathy” and non-provision of timely medical services leading to the death.

The CPM went a step further demanding that all those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case and other detenues under politically motivated cases, misusing draconian laws like UAPA, sedition etc, be released forthwith. 

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh accused the Indian state of having killed Stan. “Who in the apparatus of the Indian state will be held responsible for this tragedy? Make no mistake — it is the Indian state that killed Fr Stan Swamy, who was such a passionate crusader for social justice,” he said.

DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin said the “suffering” the activist endured should not befall anyone else.

DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran said his party will raise the issue in Parliament. “This is a sad state of Indian politics. We are going to raise this issue in Parliament to voice out that you cannot squeeze or mute the dissident voices of people. This is a democracy.”

DMK MP Kanimozhi tweeted, “Warriors are not buried, they are sown.”

In a statement, the CPM Politburo said: “It needs to be underlined that it is only after a campaign was conducted by various human rights and disability rights organisations that even a sipper to drink liquids was made available to him in jail”. 

The CPI, in a statement, alleged that Swamy was denied medical treatment and demanded that those responsible for his death be arrested. 

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said such “travesty of justice should have no place in our democracy”.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti called the government, “ruthless & callous”.  

Pressure is mounting but the man is dead. Would this be a lesson for justice to be put on a fast track? Would it jolt the conscience of those who denied him a sipper and a straw? Would it bring some humanness into the system rather than it pursuing the dotted line? Maybe the agencies have a strong case against Stan Swamy but can it be so strong to deny him his basic rights. A straw and a sipper? There are no easy answers.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: ([email protected]



Today's Question »
State minister for power Nasrul Hamid yesterday said everyone to have access to electricity by June. Do you think the feat achievable by the timeframe?
 No Comment
Yes 47.3%
No 48.7%
No Comment 4.1%

Copyright © All right reserved.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Disclaimer & Privacy Policy
About Us
Contact Us

Powered by : Frog Hosting