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India : Homages to martyr Father Stan Swamy

Thursday 15 July 2021, by siawi3

Source: https://www.indiancurrents.org/story-a-saint-of-modern-times-ram-puniyani-90.php

A Saint of Modern Times: Stan Swami

Ram Puniyani

13.07.21 14:16 (3 hours ago)

On 5th July 2021, India’s human rights movement lost one of its dogged and principled workers Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly call Stan Swamy. He breathed his last in Holy Spirit Hospital Mumbai. Coincidentally at that time his bail petition was being heard by the Court. He was in Taloja prison on the charge of Bhima Koregaon case, he was the oldest person to have been accused of terrorism by NIA and was in prison under the draconian UAPA law, in which the hearing of the case is not time bound and the person can be incarcerated for long time, without any tangible reason. Authorities are not duty bound to present the evidence of the crime particular timeframe. He was arrested nearly eight months ago.

Bhima Koregaon incidence took place in 2019, 1st July. As thousands of dalits were returning after paying homage to dalits who lost their life in battle against Peshwa army in 1818, they were attacked. This battle had taken place between the Peshwa Baji Rao’s upper caste army against the East India Company’s army constituted mainly by Mahar community. Mahars saw it as a defeat of casteist forces and celebrated the victory, a victory pole was erected and annually dalits started visiting the place as a mark of defeat of Brahmanical forces. Babasaheb Ambedkar also visited the place in 1928. It became an ideological identity booster for the dalit community.

In 2018 as it was second centenary of the event lakhs of dalits visited Bhima Koregaon to show their solidarity with the cause of dalit upliftment. After the attack on dalits initial FIR was filed against Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, two Hindutva leaders. Elgar Parishad was organized in Pune by Justice P.B. Sawant and Justice Kolse Patil.

Later NIA took over the case from the state Government and initially started arresting people Like Sudha Bhardwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Vernon Gonslaves, Arun Feirera on the ground that the violence was planned by the Maoists. The charge was that they had planned to overthrow the Government and kill Prime Minister Modi. Those arrested have been given the label of Urban Naxals, the ones who are supporting the naxal activities from urban centers.

The evidence has not been presented by police so far. Contrary evidence has surfaced. As per the US firm ‘Arsenal Consulting’ letters were planted in laptop of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. The Court has not taken notice of this. The only person to get six month bail on health ground has been revolutionary poet Varavar Rao. In case of Stan Swamy, he is having Parkinson’s disease. He was denied the sipper for long time to help him drink tea etc.

From jail he wrote a moving ‘caged birds can sing’. He stated in his letter from jail that he is being helped by prison inmates to take care of his daily needs and that in prison all his body systems are deteriorating. Much later without giving bail Court permitted him to be treated in a community hospital. Meanwhile he also had the Covid infection which left him weaker and more debilitated. His death has been mourned by most of the civil rights groups not only from India but also from abroad. United Nations Human Rights body (Nadine Maenza) and European Union representative for human rights (Eamon Gilmore) have expressed deep sorrow and concern on the whole issue

Father was working among the Adivasis of Jharkhand. The BJP regime was taking away the forest lands and passing it on to Corporate for the natural resource. Thousand of Adivasis were put behind the bars for opposing this move of the Government. Fr. Stan stood tall in supporting the cause of these marginalized sections of society. “If you question this form of development, you are anti-development, which is equal to anti-government, which is equal to anti-national. A simple equation. This is why government calls me a Maoist, although I am completely opposed to Maoist methods, and has nothing to do with them”. He was part of the team which authored the report in 2016, “Deprived of Rights over Natural Resources, Impoverished Adivsis Get Prison.” His life was very simple. Used to travel in the ordinary rail compartment to save out on money. Lived on frugal means, totally committed to the rights of Adivaisis among whom he was living.

We have lost great human rights activists, no lime light, quiet and committed work for the basic human rights of marginalized sections. Even from prison he wrote more about those who have been lodged in jail without the cases being brought up in the Courts, basically being made to rot, incarcerated for raising their voice for justice.

The great loss to Human rights movements reminds us about the methods being used by the state and the lack of sensitivity of judiciary in dealing with the likes of Stan Swamy, who have been put behind bars on the pretext of plan to murder our Prime Minster! It is to silence the voices of dissent, to undermine those who speak up for the average and marginalized, in the language of Gandhi those who speak up for those who are standing last in the queue. We are living in times when policies are being manipulated to please those who are standing in the front rows of the queue. We are living in times where on one hand organizations like Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram have been floated by RSS to co-opt Adivasis into the agenda of Hindu nation and on the other those working for the just rights of Adivasis, like Fr. Stan are being implicated.

The only comparison I can think for this great person is the Saints, who were articulating the morality of Justice. Saints had to face the wrath of powers that be. This institutional murder of Fr. Stan on one hand reminds us as to how saints were persecuted by those in power and on the other it has diminished us as a nation. It is time that we need to form joint platforms to protect justice for all marginalized sections. His life should make us stand against the prevalent injustices and work for stopping the deep erosion of democratic values. That will be the fitting tribute to him.

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Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/fr-stan-swamys-death-highlights-need-repeal-uapa

India: 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

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Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/jesuits-india-journalists-and-academics-bid-fr-stan-swamy-emotional-farewell

Jesuits of India, journalists and academics bid Fr Stan Swamy an emotional farewell

Shortly after the death of Fr Stan Swamy, supporters and family members come together to remember the man one last time and denounce the callousness of authorities

Sabrangindia

06 Jul 2021

Bidding goodbye to Jharkhand Adivasi activist Father Stan Swamy, the Jesuits in India hosted a condolence meet in honour of the 84-year-old personality on June 5, 2021.

“In his death we have lost a courageous, compassionate elder brother. He is an example of us Jesuits to become effective Jesuits,” said Jesuits of India Head Father Stany D’Souza remembering Fr. Swamy.

Many people during the event described Fr Stan as a person, who embraced simple life and worked tirelessly for poor people. Even when he was deprived of his basic rights in jail, Fr Stan continued to fight for the poor and saw Jharkhand Adivasis as his true family. This made his death at Holy Family Hospital, away from his Adivasi brethren, all the more hurtful for his supporters.

“His death will awaken the conscience of people and prompt them to work for marginalised people,” said Father D’Souza.

Many people like former Supreme Court Judge Madan Lokur expressed disappointment at the orders passed by courts, the manner in which authorities and courts handled his detention.

“He had to go to court for a straw sipper, I have seen the pulverisation of human rights over these years, and I am witnessing a downhill slide in the trampling of human rights. Things have gotten worse since the vilification of the Shaheen Bagh women. All we need is a little bit of humanity and kindness,” he said.

Similarly, journalist N. Ram condemned the authoritarian strengths that violate the rule of law and “are motivated by communalism.” He referred to human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj who is languishing in Byculla jail for nearly three years, suffering worsening health.

“It’s a sad commentary and courts are not acting proactively. We are very disappointed by the higher performance of the judiciary,” said Ram.

He also condemned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for failing to uphold Father Stan’s basic human rights.

Building this further, human rights defender and journalist Teesta Setalvad called his death an institutional murder. She remembered how often Swamy sent articles describing the situation of Jharkhand Adivasis, for whom he filed PILs. Setalvad said that despite his arrest, Swamy was worried about other undertrial prisoners, including the Bhima Koregaon accused.

She urged courts to regularly monitor prisons and ensure timely legal aid. She also called his demise “death in custody”, as he was still an undertrial prisoner at the time. As such, she called for a judicial inquiry into this death.

“We have lost him in a tragic way. We owe it to him and others incarcerated that we leave vibrant campaigns to ensure prison rights and ask for the repeal of the UAPA law. Such laws that are unjust have no right here,” said Setalvad.

Many attendees asserted this demand including Centre for Study of Secularism Director Irfan Engineer. He called upon civil society organisations to demand the unconditional revoking of the UAPA, release of the Bhima Koregaon accused and others imprisoned under draconian laws. “We are a democracy and here freedom of speech is being curbed,” he said.

Further, vocalist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee TM Krishna talked about how no person was willing to arrange a Covid-19 test for the priest. He also talked about the lack of human empathy for ensuring basic needs and appealed for a collective social energy through public and judicial action to keep the movement alive. Krishna considered it “vulgar” that an 84-year-old man was allowed to die. He finally hoped Swamy’s death would be a “galvanising moment for all to ask for the repeal of UAPA and other preventive detention laws.”

Journalist and novelist Nayantara Sehgal said that as a writer in mourning, Father Stan was a man of God who taught the true meaning of religion, to love our neighbour. Sehgal said Swamy did not die but was killed because he worked for the poor, their forest and land rights.

Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai said the Jesuit father’s arrest was deliberate, wrongful, and malicious. “They arrested him and put him in jail without seeking custody. We should keep his memory alive, we must keep fighting,” he said.

World Organisation against Torture’s Gerald Staberock criticised the government for its inaction and demanded responsibility from the same.

“It is cruel to put someone in jail at this age. It’s inhumane treatment,” he said and also called for the release of all other human rights defenders who raised their voice against the government.

Further emphasizing State cruelty, International Federation for Human Rights member Alice Mogwe said the federation repeatedly asked the Government of India for his release since November 2020. She condemned the government for “shutting down every voice against it and this is concerning.”

Like Mogwe, United Nations Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor also stated that she repeatedly raised Fr. Swamy’s case in front of authorities.

“These [UAPA] laws are used as an excuse to put people in prison for a very long time. The UN will soon publish a report on the inhuman practices of charging human rights defenders with jaildom. Those working on indigenous rights are those defenders at greater risk of being targeted. His jail is a stain on the reputation of Indian authorities and it will last forever,” said Lawlor.

Later, Fr Stan’s grand-daughter Sheeba remembered how he rarely visited his village Trichy because he considered the Jharkhand Adivasis his family.

“He was brave because he knew he was right and he knew his calling. Thank you to all who took care of him,” she said.

Other family members also spoke about Fr Stan’s commitment to Adivasis and his love for his claimed family. They condemned the manner in which he died that did not even allow his family to attend his last rites. Family member Lincy said Fr Stan found his calling and lived accordingly.

From the Jesuit community, Jamshedpur Jesuit province member Father Jerry Cutinh referred to Fr Stan’s poem that said, “Caged birds can still sing” and called him a brilliant mind. He added, “Before his arrest in Ranchi, he said, if working for the poor is sedition and a crime, I am ready to face the consequences. His spirit will live on.”

Others like former Archbishop of Canterbury, Mumbai Jesuit Province’s Father Arun D’souza, Father Jesuit provincial of Chennai province, Father Jebamalai Raja and Father Jeyaraj, on behalf of Father General and all Jesuits in Korea paid their respects to Swamy. Jose Maria, from Portugal and people from Turkey also attended the event. Father Danis, from Fr Stan’s hometown, said a few words in his memory. He thanked God for providing Father Stan to the entire world.

Academic experts like officials from the International Solidarity for Academic Freedom (InSAF) in India, Columbia University faculty, TISS professor Brinelle D’Souza, NCHRO Chairman Professor A Marth and even Meghalaya MP Vincent Pala expressed their condolences.

Related:

The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy
Father Stan Swamy passes away waiting for bail
Impoverished Adivasis Hunted as Criminals
Capital Punishment without trial

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Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/judiciary-trial

Rule of Law
Judiciary on trial!

Examining the role of our courts in wake of Fr. Stan Swamy’s institutional murder

Dr. Hiren Gohain

08 Jul 2021

Justice must have a heart. It cannot be just an arena for legal pedantry and fireworks, though that unfortunately has been the case since the rise of Rhetoric in ancient Greece. If one does not FEEL the pain, suffering and loss an injustice causes, the outward demeanour of calm objectivity makes little sense. CJI Ramana had inspired some hope that we have left behind the long period of stony silence as the government pretended and the highest court in the land agreed that all was well as the thousands of migrant workers were trekking hundreds of miles on foot under a scorching sun without food and water. But what did we actually witness in the case of Father Stan Swamy?

When he felt the end was near, and the grinding wheels of institutional torment would find ways of circumventing his bail plea on specious grounds, he made a direct heart-felt appeal to the bench of the High Court to let him die in peace and some dignity. I think anybody can feel the resignation and the absolute sincerity of that final and direct appeal. But the court unbelievably decided to send him back to the hospital where he breathed his last. Only one act of the court has some grace, it transferred him from a hospital where he thought he was receiving poor treatment. But, post-Covid complications have usually proved fatal. And on retrospect it is clear he knew the end was near. How did this fact not register?

Let us come to the brass tacks. He would probably have escaped cruel fate had he not been charged and arrested under the UAPA act and exposed to Covid 19 in prison Arrests and detention under this act have been visibly bizarre and sadistic.

People have been accused of plotting to murder the Prime Minister, no less, and organising a massive armed rebellion against the State, on the basis of digital files said to be recovered from laptops of one or two accused. Father Stan Swamy repeatedly pleaded before court that no proof was produced before the court to link him to the suggested plots except mention in those files which have now definitely come under a cloud. But no, that would not cut any ice. Why? Because the top security agency of the state was on oath saying that ’the matters are very serious’.

Now a leading forensic laboratory of the world has examined the files and detected use of malware to infiltrate laptops and insinuate ’incriminating documents’. This is a firm with proven integrity and expertise. Even if the NIA refuses to consider that evidence, there is no reason why the court should not seek independent expert opinion (not one recommended by the government) on whether it is authentic. After all many cases filed by NIA have been shown to be without proof in many courts in various parts of the country. It is particularly disturbing that on the ground of pending investigation, people should have been robbed of their liberty for years. What if there are rogue elements in the agency using the cover of State security to implicate people they dislike or in their own personal or group interest? That no longer seems such an outlandish idea.

To call a spade a spade, all the accused who are denied bail are in some way or other involved in working for tribals and also the most depressed among scheduled castes. It is also obvious that the areas in which they have been working are areas where the tribal people of various ethnic origins have in recent decades come under corporate onslaught, with the land of their ancestors and their livelihoods suddenly being snatched away from them. And the State is active in supporting corporates, and criminalising tribal resistance.

It has long been a crying scandal. Maoists have made use of this patent oppression and injustice to mobilise tribals against it in the light of their own agenda. Since the CRPF is alleged to be assisting corporates in their ruthless assault on tribals, human rights activists who have no sympathy for or link with Maoists, have felt compelled to come to the rescue of the tribals in asserting and exercising their constitutional rights. Father Stan Swamy, for example, was involved in helping hapless exploited tribals to claim their rights under the Forest Rights Act. Since a section of the tribals have come under Maoist influence, it has been possible for state agencies to conflate the two groups in floating the idea that the two are but two sides of the same coin. If you oppose corporates and side with the tribals, the argument goes, no other proof is really necessary to raise the ghost of their involvement in Maoist sedition. The alleged computer files giving details of the nebulous plot just clinches the proof, according to the prosecution. And it is this that has caused international outrage, prompting the External Affairs ministry to issue an unusual statement that all this is just misguided blather, and that everything has been done according to laws of the land.

Can this state of affairs be understood as normal, and can the courts not even raise an eyebrow at such a turn of events? Pray what is the meaning of justice in this context? Can the judiciary claim to be independent if they take for granted the reckless and dangerous course the executive has followed to degrade law into its cruel whims and paranoid fancies?

One hopes the nightmare will end with the courts taking a decisive, but entirely rational, view of the chaos into which the justice system seems to be slipping. If they do not call a halt the executive will surely engulf all the powers of the state and overturn all that we understand by law, justice and democracy. It must be said that the recent reasoned verdict of the Delhi High Court granting bail to three accused detainees under UAPA act is historic, in the sense that the bench has consciously chosen to stop the slide into moral and judicial chaos. If that does not jolt the state including the courts into sanity, it may even become necessary to lay the evidence before the scrutiny of best and unquestionably neutral international legal and judicial experts for a truly just opinion on its tenability. One hopes that we shall be spared that pain and shame.

*The author is a highly respected Assamese intellectual, a literary critic and social-scientist from Assam. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/bujha-singh-stan-swamy-story-institutional-apathy

India
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

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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Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/citizens-condemn-fr-stans-institutional-murder-under-uapa

Rule of Law
Citizens condemn Fr. Stan’s institutional murder under UAPA

Individuals and groups carry forward Fr, Stan’s legacy and demand the release of all those arrested under the draconian UAPA law

Sabrangindia

09 Jul 2021

The death of Jharkhand’s tribal activist Father Stan Swamy sparked a slew of protests and charged memorials in the last week. Friends and family along with the Jesuits of India held a memorial meeting in the 84-year-old’s memory soon after his death.

However, the grief of what is popularly being called “institutional murder” continued, as people in Ranchi, Mumbai and other cities held rallies and meetings to condemn Fr. Stan’s death at the Holy Family hospital in Mumbai.

On July 9, 2021 the West Zone Jesuits announced another virtual meeting at 6 PM to remember Fr. Swamy, and to discuss the need to immediately release the rest of undertrial prisoners still suffering behind bars during an ongoing pandemic. Speakers such as human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, Goa Archbishop Felip Neri and others will address the group.

Ranchi

Prior to this on July 8, a silent resistance march was observed in Jamshedpur followed by a condolence meeting in Ranchi to decry the custodial death. Over 100 social activists, academics, trade union activists and tribal leaders participated and vehemently demanded the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) under which Fr. Stan was arrested.

Later, during the condolence meeting in Bagaicha, the social research centre at Namkum where Fr Stan lived, members of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and several human rights organisations resolved to submit a memorandum to Chief Minister Hemant Soren demanding the same. Attendees also agreed to month-long prayers in memory of Stan.

Similar condolence meetings took place all across the state and cities like Mangalore in Karnataka. In Ranchi, supporters also decided to gherao Raj Bhavan on July 15 to demand a judicial inquiry into Fr. Stan’s death among other demands.

It may be mentioned that on Friday, the Indian Express reported that the Maharashtra prison department confirmed a magisterial inquiry following the registration of an accidental death report as per procedure.

Mumbai

Meanwhile in Mumbai, dozens of people assembled outside the St Peter’s church holding banners that mourned Fr. Stan’s death and asked, “How many more deaths of Bhima Koregaon detainees?” While the group was small due to social distancing guidelines, many individuals attended the protest condemning the death in their individual capacities. According to Newslaundry, members of social activism organisations like the Bombay Catholic Sabha, Hum Bharat Ke Log, and Jamaat-E-Islami Hind also came to pray for the activist’s soul and light candles.

Similarly, the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JACSC) decried the NIA and demanded judicial acquittal of the Bhima Koregaon accused at the Chaityabhoomi in Dadar on Monday and Wednesday, said media reports.

According to the Times of India, the JACSC said Fr. Stan’s death should serve as a wake-up call for India’s criminal justice system. Students from IIT Bombay attended the event.

Student action

Similarly, the youth wing of Archdiocese of Bangalore on Wednesday organised a zoom meeting in Fr. Stan’s remembrance. Around 1,000 people also attended an in-person candle-lighting event.

Friends of Democracy also organised “Who Killed Stan Swamy? Repeal UAPA” virtual event on the same day where Setalvad spoke about the institutional murder and the urgent need to release undertrial prisoners during times of health crisis.

On Tuesday, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) started an online petition addressed to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) N. V. Ramana demanding an inquiry into why Fr. Stan’s health worsened in the jail as it did. Further, they questioned why his bail application was repeatedly denied “despite his ill health and full cooperation with the investigation.”

Hunger strike for Fr. Stan

Not just free citizens but even the 10 people accused in the Bhima Koregaon case showed their anguish at the institutional murder. Fr. Stan repeatedly spoke of how he wished to spend his last moments with his family. Yet he died in custody.

According to NDTV, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe observed a one-day fast in the Taloja jail on Wednesday.

In a statement, they accused the NIA and the Taloja jail’s former superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar of constantly “harassing” Fr. Stan with “ghastly treatment” inside the jail, delay in transferring him from hospital to jail and protesting his possession of items like a sipper. Fr. Stan suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

Many such protests and meetings will also take place in the future. Notably, a “Jail Is The Rule: Bail Jurisprudence Under The UAPA” webinar is being organised by the Law and Society Committee on July 10 to discuss the legal status of ongoing detentions under the UAPA and contextualise recent developments in UAPA bail jurisprudence.

Related:

Jesuits of India, journalists and academics bid Fr Stan Swamy an emotional farewell
The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy
Fr Stan Swamy’s death highlights the need to repeal UAPA
Bhima Koregaon: The Truth
Stone quarrying, development projects threatening Jharkhand’s sacred grove