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India: Tributes, statements, poems and analysis - Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who died in custody on July 5, 2021 at the Holy Family Hospital in Bandra in Bombay..

VIDEO

Sunday 11 July 2021, by siawi3

Source: Mainstream, VOL LIX No 30, New Delhi, July 10, 2021

Mainstream devoted a large section of its July 10 issue to Father Stan Swamy’s death in custody: it is reproduced below
. Editorial
. Father Stan Swamy
. You made me a Martyr
. Stan Swamy - in Memoriam
. Jesuit Communist
. Stan, now part of the Adivasi folklore of resistance - Judicial and Jail systems guilty in ’death by default’
. Death of Fr Swamy has thrown open many Constitutional questions in public domain that look for answers from the authorities

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Editorial, Mainstream,

July 10, 2021

.../...

Sad news in the mid-week cast its shadow over all other events. Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest, who for the past decades worked in Ranchi, Jharkhand State for the rights of ‘Adivasis’ and poor in the forests, died as an under-trial prisoner in Mumbai. 84 year old Fr. Stan was arrested last year and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and jailed near Bombay. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) came up with a cock and bull story that claimed that Fr. Stan Swamy is a Maoist and a conspirator in the Bhima Koregaon Case. Fr. Stan Swamy was a Parkinson’s patient in jail, who had to move court to get a sipper straw without which he could not drink water, but that was denied to him as if it was a dangerous weapon. Interim bail was refused to a firm beliver in non-violence. Stan Swamy had been supportive of the Pathalgadi movement a practice of honouring ancestors in rural Jharkhand by placing stone slabs in burial places. In the 1990s, the retired bureaucrat turned activist BD Sharma and his colleague Bandi Oraon, used stone slabs inscribed with constitutional provisions under Panchayat Raj (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act and the Fifth Schedule. This came to be known as the new Pathalgadi movement. In 2019 the BJP government in Jharkhand state filed a police case against Stan Swamy for supporting Pathalgadi movement as if it was a crime. The real crime of this priest was that he stood by the poor, the adivasis and for their constitutional rights, he was a believer in liberation theology and that was seen as a threat by the authorities.

Any honest observers of the way the criminal justice system works will tell you that India is standing knee-deep in troubled waters. Truth remains in short supply. That policing at the level of States has already been suceptible to political misuse is widely known, but the problem is compounded many times over with top most investigative agencies at the federal level responsible for anti terror cases showing a level of incompetence and wrong doing difficult to describe. Anti terror laws are used as standard fare to harass critics of the government. Just the past weeks three young students who had been charged under the UAPA were released on bail by the High Court in Delhi. Very recently, the peasant rights activists and Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi who had been in prison since december 2019 thanks to our National Investigation Agency (NIA) with serious charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was cleared by the court of all charges.

Will the dirty harry’s stop their run? Will anyone in the NIA or such prominent agencies be made to pay a symbolic fine or denied permission to go to the loo for any wrong doing? Sounds doubtful.

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Father Stan Swamy

7 July 2021,

by Sagari Chhabra

Father, forgive us,
For we know not what we do;
We only know how to
Keep a man of god
Without a sipper and a glass;
Nothing now, leaves us aghast.
As your health ebbed away,
You told them,
‘It is possible I may die soon,
For I can neither bathe
Nor eat on my own’;
But they did disown,
Not only you, but our entire humanity,
By denying you bail,
Keeping you suffering
For two hundred and thirty four days in jail.
Afflicted with Parkinsons coupled with Covid
Your breath slowly ebbed away;
Then they placed you on a ventilator;
At your bail hearing they said,
They will get to it a day later.
It is then that the doctor declared,
Your lordships he did die yesterday;
But it was not just you,
It was our conscience they did slay.
Father, I weep for you,
For your gentle spirit
Your good Christian ways,
The mosaic you brought
Into these hard, concrete days.
In prison you said,
The pain and smiles of the under-trials
Brought you closer to god;
That you were not alone;
Those who worked with the adivasis
Were branded as naxals and told to atone.
They insisted you were a terrorist,
So easy to call god’s pilgrim this name;
O, how will we be able
To overcome our collective shame?
You were tied to a cross
And so were we;
With every nail hammered
The soul of India bled,
But you are not dead;
We love you Father,
Will carry your name to our lips,
Resurrection is but the continuing of the good fight;
O father, lead us kindly into the light.

Sagari Chhabra is an award-winning author & film-maker. She is director of the Hamaara Itihaas archives

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You made me a Martyr

Friday 9 July 2021,

by Suhas Borker

Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy aka Stan Swamy, image by Sarah Modak, courtesy Article 14

You made me
a simple eighty-four old Jesuit priest
into a martyr
By demonizing me
By putting me in jail
By repeatedly denying me bail
By declining even a sipper
to my Parkinson’s torn body
You tormented and tortured me enough
But you could never imprison my spirit
a simple adivasi rights activist
fighting for my people’s human dignity.

Remember you will never be able to
wash the blood on your hands
till the day of judgment
You killed me - one Stan Swamy
But my sacrifice shall ignite fires in the hearts
of millions who shall sprout from my karmabhumi
to rise up and stand ramrod straight
with glistening sweat of their brow
aflame with the power of truth
to reap the harvest of our struggle
to fight for freedom against injustice
to fight for freedom against repression
to fight for freedom for INDIA’S PEOPLE
for which each and every one counts.

Your clock is ticking
Your time shall be up very soon.

8 July 2021

Suhas Borker is Editor, Citizens First TV (CFTV) and Convener, Working Group on Alternative Strategies based in New Delhi.

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A very powerful Video testimony and statement here: 17:32

Stan Swamy - in Memoriam

Jean Dreze
economist,
virtual meet by HRF on July 6, 2021
by HRF, Andhra Pradesh

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Jesuit Communist

by Basu Acharya

July 7, 2021

The only time I met Father Stan Swamy was nearly four and half years back. On a lazy summer afternoon, I arrived in Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand, to attend a two-day seminar commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution. The organisers had asked Comrade Subodh Mitra and me to speak on the subject of communist unity. Delegates from almost all mainstream and communist revolutionary groups were present and, despite patiently listening to a few irksome sectarian speeches, the overall experience was quite satisfying. Every group, except the SUCI, accepted the need for united action against the rising menace of Hindutva fascism and decided to work out an Approach Paper for future course of action. The meeting went on for almost four hours at a stretch and finally concluded at three o’clock.

Lunch was already due and the organisers, obviously, were in great haste. They had arranged our food and lodging at ’Bagaicha’, an establishment put up by a Jesuit priest and liberation theologist, Father Stan Swamy, at Namkom. As we entered the site, I could not trace any so-called religious motifs that are common to all missionary edifice. Spanning across an acre of land, Bagaicha resembled a structure much akin to a fortress-like high school building of yesteryears.

As we set our feet in the dining hall, the volunteers told us that it was a self-service setup where every person has to wash his own plate and katora at the end his/her meal. It was well above three o’clock and we, quite naturally, were much famished. But as there were almost a hundred people around, most of them senior citizens, I did not hurry. Instead, I stood at one side of the long corridor of the huge dining space and enjoyed my cigarette. Subodh-da, Comrade Subodh Mitra, however, came up to me and said, “just throw that piece of fag away and have your lunch. It’s already late and Father Stan too has come.”

Instructed by the leader, I went to the adjacent washroom to lather my hands, returned quickly and collected a plate and a katora from one side of the long table and helped myself with the modest foodstuffs in the menu: Rice, daal, fried potato slices and a mixed vegetable item prepared with raw papaya, chickpeas and beans. I was indeed too hungry and the food tasted fabulous.

After lunch I went to the room allotted to me. In last few days, I had to run from one part of central Jharkhand to several other areas for professional reasons, hence, reaching ’Bagaicha’ was pure bliss. I went to bed instantly but could not come in terms with my siesta as Comrade Subodh-da suddenly came to me to share certain important information. We talked for a while and after he was done, while exiting, he told me to meet Father Swamy in the evening. I at once replied in affirmative and pulled my eye-curtains down and fell asleep.

I got up in an hour or so, did my toilet and went out for a stroll. I wandered around the garden, clean and well-maintained, observed every corner of the building, quite minutely, but could not spot any space meant for worship and prayer. As I reached the entry of Father Stan’s office room, he called me in.

He was weedy and lanky, looked extremely frail. Even his voice was trembling—an obvious sign of neurological ailment. His eyes, however, were just the opposite. They were calm and penetrating yet had a diamond-like dazzle. I looked at him in fascinated amazement. That was the first time I was meeting a Liberation Theologist! He asked my whereabouts, responding to which I gave a brief account of my literary and social activities. He looked pleased, and that enabled me to garner courage to propose him an informal interview. He accepted readily and I asked: “Comrade Father, I was wandering your premises and no doubt it’s a huge one. But I couldn’t find any place for worship.” Father Stan smiled but did not utter a word. That was how he entertained the question and so I changed the topic: “The way you’ve stood firm by the adivasis and other marginalised people, opened the gates of your institution for helping them and also the revolutionaries is nothing but an impossible feat. There could hardly be any comparison. But Father, I hope you’d agree, there’s a materialistic aspect as well. How did you manage to construct and smoothly run such a huge establishment?” With a quivering voice, he laughed and said, “I did all this from the money I received from the Jesuits. I told them, ’You are rich people, why not allow me to work in my own way? I’d certainly send the bills.’ That’s how things went, I would send bills and they would pay accordingly. And finally ’Bagaicha’ was created. You’re a writer and activist. Have you seen our library?” I said, “The door was locked. I saw it from outside. I would love to explore it tomorrow morning if you please allow me.” Father Stan smiled and asked me to reach the library by nine o’clock the next morning.

Tea had arrived (I do not remember whether he was using a sipper). With a sip, I entered another topic: “Well, Father, you are a man from South India and probably you studied abroad (that was a wild guess). Why then all of a sudden in Jharkhand?” Father Stan responded: “I studied Sociology in Manila and worked for a short period at the Social Institute in Bangalore. Later, I came here and settled. I came here to worship, to stand by the oppressed. I wanted them to fight for their rights. I was quite young then.” “That’s why people call you a liberation theologist, isn’t it?”—I retorted. Father Stan smiled again. But I was not in a mood to leave. I rephrased the question: “How do you like to identify youself?” The Father stared at me with his calm but penetrating look for one or two seconds and replied: “Communist”. Naturally, I was not expecting this answer. How could a Jesuit priest call himself a Communist! Father Stan could sense my question and tried to enunciate his position: “Jesus himself was an early communist. It’s at his call I’ve engaged myself in the service of the oppressed.” His words reminded me of Engels’ ’On the History of Early Christianity’, where he suggested that “Christianity was originally a movement of oppressed people... [and] ’socialism’ did in fact, as far as it was possible at the time, exist and even became dominant—in Christianity.”

This was enough for me. I concluded the interview with the question I had begun, albeit a bit differently, in the form of a statement: “That means there’s no separate prayer room here, right?” Father Stan laughed. We shook hands and got up. People outside were waiting to meet him.

By then, barring certain corners of the garden with lampstands, ’Bagaicha’ was enveloped in darkness, accompanied by the chorus of crickets.

Basu Acharya is a former member of a Maoist Far-Left group

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Stan, now part of the Adivasi folklore of resistance - Judicial and Jail systems guilty in ’death by default’

Friday 9 July 2021,

by John Dayal

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Stan Swamy died a prisoner in a Mumbai hospital, was cremated after a funeral Mass, and his ashes taken to his beloved people of Jharkhand to dispersed amidst the forests and the fields. Fr Stan Swamy, the Jesuit, has now become part of the Adivasi folklore of resistance. He is also a martyr to their cause of protecting their heritage, the ‘Jal, Jangal, Zameen’ [Water, Forest, Land] from the lusting eyes of the men in political power and their crony corporate friends.

For posterity, the intrepid law news agency reported from the Bombay High court on 5th June 2021 that the Bench which was to hear Fr Stan Swamy’s application for bail on medical grounds was informed by the director of the Holy Family hospital that the 84-year-old patient had passed away. The doctor said that Fr Stan, who had been brought to the hospital some days ago and was recovering from covid he had contracted in jail, and several co-morbidities including progressive Parkinson’s disease, had suffered a cardiac arrest, and despite being put on a ventilator for several hours, could not be revived. He was declared dead.

His bail application remained unheard. The judges said they were speechless.

Stan, is now part of the Adivasi folklore of resistance, as much as the Judicial and Jail systems are guilty in his “death by default’ or worse.

Father Stan Swamy, a Tamil born in Trichy in the then Madras province, who worked much of his life in what is now Jharkhand, was bid farewell at a funeral Mass at the St Peters Church, Bandra. Just 20 of his brother priests were in the church obeying the covid distancing guidelines. The cremation was away from the glare of the Media.

Millions followed the Mass on various internet platforms.

Stan’s death was covered by the world media, with stinging editorials on the policies of the Indian government. The media also covered the pained remarks of United Nations Human rights officials, as well as many western governments. For the record, it must be said that major TV and print journals continued their support to the government whose spokespersons in turn held on to their argument that all 16 were guilty as charged, and posed a threat to Mr Modi and the national fabric.

Stan’s death evoked a tsunami swell of shock, injury and revulsion in the people across the globe, ranging from Human rights points-men of the United Nations, political leaders, civil society, and the common people cutting across religious beliefs or ideological positions.

Scores of Mumbai residents gathered across the road from the church as the Mass was in progress to express their solidarity and registered their protest at the circumstances of Fr Stan’s incarceration under the heinous Unlawful activities Prevention Act, UAPA. Similar protests continued to bet held in various towns in India, and indeed even in the US and elsewhere.

The spontaneous expression of shock globally ended the final chapter in the fascinating and inspiring life of the lanky old scholar-researcher-activist who was arrested in October 2020 from his Bagaicha home on the outskirts of Ranchi, Jharkhand. He was the last of 16 men and women National Investigating Agency and the Maharashtra police had arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, for conspiring to assassinate the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi.

Arrested before him were 14 men and woman, among them poets, writers, lawyers, activists and academics, all accused by the National Investigating Agency, NIA, of being involved with a banned terrorist organization and for being co-conspirators in the 2018 violence in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village. There, a right wing upper caste group had clashed with the Dalits who had gathered at the historic war memorial to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle in which they defeated the forces of the Peshwa ruler of the region. The NIA also accused Swamy and the others of having ties with the ultra left wing Maoist armed groups. And the, as a trump card, the NIA ‘discovered’ a letter on the laptop of an accused purportedly pointing to a conspiracy to assassinate the head of the government.

In a video recorded days before his arrest, Swamy denied all involvement and said he had never visited the location where the violence took place. I, Harsh Mander and members of the Karwane Mohabbat had met him before the Covid lockdowns, some time after his Bagaicha home and office were first raided, and he had reiterated he had nothing to do with the matter at all.

But there is no doubt that the government at its highest political echelons had decided to make this case a matter of prestige over which it would hang several political objectives, ranging from the smaller one of the politics of Maharashtra, to issues of ending popular resistance to opening up infrastructure and resource exploitation in central India.

Tagging the Prime minister’s security ensured it becoming what has over the years come to be variously called the “national consciousness”, “national conscience” and “collective interest of the community”, suitable to the regime and its loyal supporters.

The NIA knew the orders came from, and so did the subordinate judiciary which over the years had heard and rejected bail applications from not just Stan, but several others of the arrested 16 who had chronic cardiac and other ailments.

On 22 March this year, rejecting Stan’s plea for a bail on medical grounds, Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) judge Dinesh E. Kothalikar wrote, “If seriousness of the allegations made against the applicant are considered in proper perspective, in that case there will be no hesitation to conclude that the collective interest of the community would outweigh the right of personal liberty of the applicant and as such the old age and or alleged sickness of the applicant would not go in his favour, so that the discretion to release the applicant can be exercised in his favour.”

This was just a bail application. Hearings in the case are yet to begin, and the over 10,000-page charge-sheet to be analysed in court by prosecution and defence lawyers. The men and women are at best suspects, and undertrials, who maintain they are innocent and the case is a politically directed fabrication.

In all, since his first application for bail on medical grounds, moved on 9 October 2020, Stan Swamy through his lawyers, moved the courts a total of 11 times, and each time, the judge found an excuse or merit in the NIA’s staunch opposition to granting bail to the old and sick man. It is to be hoped that someday, the Supreme court will call the records and possibly chassis the judges involved.

Will Stan Swamy, the seed which died, give strength to civil society and to the Adivasis he so dearly loved, and whose staunch demands for control over their natural resources and constitutional rights he espoused as his own, remains to be seen. Will the Christian community which was active on social media demanding his release — the Pope in Rome too had spoken - go beyond a candle light vigil, is also a moot question. It is not known to be a militant group, and its fissiparous leadership would rather sue for peace than anything more.

Stan and his work has also to be seen in the context of his own roots as a Jesuit, and his eventual coming out of the boundaries of classical religious institutions to merge seamlessly with the aspirations of the poorest of the poor. In this case, it was the Adivasis demanding that constitutional guarantees under Schedule 5 as well as subsequent laws be evoked to keep the forests and resources away from government’s crony capitalists who have long had an eye on these.

Though he worked in the civil sphere, outside of church institutions, Stan was loyal to his training and his creed. The 4,000 strong community of men of the Society of Jesus work not only in the iconic schools and colleges we know in metropolitan cities and state capitals. Some of the well-known Jesuit charisms, as they define it, are education of the whole person, men and women for and with others, promotion of justice and leadership, and ‘contemplation in action’. That is what Stan had done all his life after he came back from Brussels with degrees in sociology. The men of the Society are not intimidated way what many said is the institutional murder and ‘vengeance of the state.”

“The death of Fr Stan is not the end, but the beginning of a fresh impetus for justice and freedom. It is a Kairos moment for us to read the signs of the times and to respond to them. It is an opportunity for us to pause, ponder and proceed boldly on our way of proceeding. It is an occasion for us to discern, decide and dedicate ourselves to our mission of reconciliation and justice as Fr Stan did. Let us pray for the grace of discernment and holy boldness. May the courage and fortitude of Fr Stan inspire us to deepen our faith and hope for a new desire, a new purpose and a new future’ wrote Fr Stany D’ Souza, President of the Jesuit conference of South Asia and head of the Jesuit in India.

Stan Swamy had worked with two, perhaps three generations, of men and women Tribals of central India in their many campaigns and movement, from the formation of the Jharkhand state to the more recent Pathalgadi movement protecting the people’s control of what was theirs by right.

The most remarkable work was documenting and protesting the resistance -and often death in police firing – of innocent Adivasi youth and their incarceration for years. He had estimated that the figures of such people maybe anywhere near 3,000 or more.

Nationally, the Indian government is yet to disclose just how many people have been arrested under UAPA, and how many such cases have been brought to trial. The strategy seems to be to just let them rot in jail. This case itself is now more than two years old, and there are no indications when proceedings will start in court so that the 10,000 pages of the charge sheet can be put to the litmus test of cross examination to establish the truth. There is serious evidence from US labs that evidence may have even planted in the computers of Stan Swamy and others by government or non-state agencies using some malware.

In the meanwhile, Fr Stan Swamy SJ, will remain a guiding light for them and for those of us in the country who profess support for the dignity of the poor and seek an end to the exploitation by crony capital. And to that extent, it will have severely dented the regime’s effort to make a lesson out of the women and men arrested in the Elgar Parishad case. And hopefully, it will trigger some soul searching in the judicial system, too, even if they still retain UAPA.

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Death of Fr Swamy has thrown open many Constitutional questions in public domain that look for answers from the authorities

Friday 9 July 2021

by Arun Srivastava

Who is guilty — Father Stan Swamy or those who kept him behind bars? These are not the only two questions that need a reply from the authorities. Swamy died in the NIA custody, but he has left behind a number of questions that haunt the common people. The primary question is why he was arrested, what was the nature of the crime for which he was made to languish in the prison. People rightly describe his death as the institutional death.

The most relevant and important question that has been haunting the common law abiding citizens of the country is whether the executive diktat is superior to the constitutional authority of the Supreme Court. His death has also exposed the fallacy of the argument that Supreme Court is the real legal authority. Questions are also asked who was interested in his death? Why he was not granted bail? Why the NIA every time objected to his bail?

UAPA under which Swamy has been imprisoned by the NIA is a pan-India legislation, so obviously any judgment on it will have pan-India implications. In this backdrop one question that constantly exasperates is, why the highest judiciary has not been exercising its constitutional right to review it. Is it that the executive rule is above the Constitutional right of the judiciary? Why courts avoid questioning the draconian and unconstitutional provisions of this law. It is common sense that if an accused cannot be granted a speedy trial then he is entitled to bail. The Advisory Board of UAPA cannot be the final word or arbiter of a person’s guilt.

It is high time our judges feel the pulse of the people and should understand the wishes of the public. After all justice and judicial system is for the people and not only to serve the political institutions and politicians. The judiciary would do well to remember that all great legal and social reforms have been driven by the people not by the governments. The fact is the UAPA is a repressive law meant to terrorise and torture the people. It is clearly borne out the fact that NIA has not succeeded in proving its charges in 98 per cent cases. To appease its bosses the NIA officials frame the people and keep them in prison.

What prevents Supreme Court from abrogating the UAPA or putting it under scanner that is too at a time when the NIA is misusing the provisions to appease and serve the political interest of their masters? Judges need to step out of their studies and chambers and smell the stench of repression and torture let loose by the organisations like NIA, see the demolition of the edifice of criminal justice system.

While not interfering with the bail granted to the three student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha in the Delhi riots and “conspiracy” case, the Supreme Court had, on June 18, 2021, effectively stayed the Delhi high court order on Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It is indeed shocking to comprehend why the apex court said that the order in the case of three students should not be treated as precedent. The court had no option but to confirm the bail or to act otherwise. But what we see that it has not been objecting to legitimising of the lawlessness by the state and to throw all legal principles to the winds.

Recently the chief of the SC Bar Council Dushyant Dave had quoted the CJI Ramana; “The judiciary is besieged by inherent and fundamental challenges. Millions of pending cases, quality of judges and their decisions, organisational issues and its integrity and impartiality, need urgent attention. Yet, in the last two decades precious little has been done. Justice is eluding the common man, including the vulnerable sections of society as Justice Ramana observed.”

Swamy will no more be present to move a bail petition and bother the judges to spare their precious time to listen to his sufferings. He is a liberated soul. It is for the Director of the NIA to undertake some extra amount of pain to locate his soul, whether it is in hell or heaven, to produce him before the court for being convicted for the crime he never committed in his life.

One thing is for sure that in his death the truth and the criminal justice system of the country have become the worst victims. How could the gentlemen sitting on the bench believe all the allegations and charges levelled against him and took it as Holy Brahma’s edict. It has been widely known from the beginning that the NIA has been telling lies and fabricating false charges. Sitting on the bench does not mean that the individual should keep aside his sensibilities and subscribe to the lies being put forward by the vested interest.

The entire world knew that Stan was implicated in false and fabricated charges except the judiciary. Stan is not the only person who became the victim of careless attitude of the judiciary, there are number of intellectuals and academics who are awaiting their death due to the averseness of the judicial system. IN fact almost all the accused persons implicated by the NIA in Koregaon case are awaiting the day of their eternal liberty and emancipation.

Stan’s case was raised not only by Mary Lawlor, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, it was shared by Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, who said the European Union had been raising the case of Fr. Stan Swamy “repeatedly” with the Indian authorities. But the Indian rulers were so obsessed with their mission that they preferred to ignore his views. Lawlor had observed; “The news from India today is devastating. Human Rights Defender and Jesuit priest Fr. Stan Swamy has died in custody, nine months after his arrest on false charges of terrorism. Jailing Human Rights Defenders is inexcusable”. Only on Sunday she had expressed concern about the deteriorating health condition of Fr. Stan Swamy. She had described the charges against the Jesuit priest as “unfounded”.

Justice Shinde of the Bombay HC who was to hear the bail application on Monday observed; “We are shocked…we have no words to express. We are sorry to know that despite your (the hospital’s) best efforts, Father Stan Swamy is not with us”. Swamy had physical problems was known to the judiciary. The day he was produced before the special court in Mumbai for the first time, his legal team submitted that he could not even sign the vakalatnama, as his hands shook due to Parkinson’s disease. Eventually, his thumb impression was taken.

A group of Nobel laureates, European Union parliamentarians and human rights activists had demanded the release of Fr Stan Swamy and the rest of the prisoners who were arrested in Bhima Koregaon Case. The lies of NIA were exposed on many occasions. In fact in February this year compelling evidence emerged to discredit the letters that form the foundation of the case by the National Investigation Agency. But shockingly the judiciary did not take cognisance of that. They also said; “While we grieve at the passing away of Father Stan Swamy, we unequivocally hold the negligent jails, the indifferent courts, and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death,” the statement said.

The 84-year-old Jesuit priest had been arrested in October for being part of a conspiracy to instigate caste violence in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018. The death of 84-year-old Father brings to an end a stark tale of injustice that has left India’s justice system diminished. The RSS and BJP also described Stan as an Urban Naxal and Maoist activist. They charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and also implicated him as a conspirator in the Bhima Koregaon case.

What a paradox the person who fought for the rights of the tribals and opposed usurping of their lands and properties by the corporate houses, was charged with being involved in a conspiracy to destabilise the Modi government which NIA could never prove the judiciary.

He was aware of the fact that NIA will kill him inside the jail. In his last appearance, via video-conference, before Bombay High Court on May 21 he described how his stint in Taloja jail had further weakened his already ravaged body. “I will probably die here, very shortly if things go on as it is”, he said, asking to be allowed to return to Ranchi on medical bail. Really surprisingly the Bombay High Court did not find time to begin hearing the second of Swamy’s bail pleas filed on merit. During his nine months of incarceration, till his death, the ailing activist came up against the heavy hand of the state, an unresponsive judiciary and a broken prison system.

NIA’s design was manifest in its unwillingness to offer him even a sipper and a straw as Parkinson’s disease had made it impossible for him to drink water from a glass. The court adjourned the case for three weeks. NIA opposed four bail pleas that Swamy filed, first in the special NIA court, and later in Bombay High Court. When Swamy asked the special court for bail on the grounds that an overcrowded prison would make him more vulnerable to the coronavirus, the NIA replied that “the accused under the garb of the current situation on account of the global pandemic Covid-19, is trying to take an undue benefit of the situation…” And yet, in all these months, the NIA did not seek a day’s custody to interrogate Swamy.

A statement by family members and friends of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case has described the death of Father Stan Swamy “an institutional murder” and said that they fear the health and lives of others lodged in jail. They said “This is 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 says.

Since apprehensions have been expressed of a possible murder, it is in the interest of the credibility of the judiciary that it must order a probe. People nurse the view that other intellectuals and academics who are in prison for nearly two years may face the fate of Swamy. Many of them above the age of 60, have chronic ailments. So far, only 81-year-old Varavara Rao has been granted bail on medical grounds that is too for only six months.

Their ordeal must end immediately. The judiciary must grant bails to intellectuals and academics Hany Babu, Sudha Bharadwaj, Sudhir Dhawale, Arun Ferreira, Surendra Gadling, Ramesh Gaichor, Vernon Gonsalves, Sagar Gorkhe, Jyoti Jagtap, Gautam Navlakha, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Anand Teltumbde and Rona Wilson. The NIA has been investigating the cases against them for months. Now the judiciary must bring to an end the dirty game of NIA. The only tenable reason for keeping them in jails is, the RSS and BJP desires to discredit and break the moral of the secular and democratic forces and individuals. These people seek justice for India’s most marginalised citizens through the rights granted to them by the Indian Constitution.

It was for the courts to decide if Swamy was really guilty of the grave charges. It must order a probe to unearth the truth. It was for the NIA to prove its case against him. Narendra Modi and his lieutenant have become suspect in the eyes of the people. It is a known fact that Modi government had abruptly transferred the case to the NIA as soon as the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra declared its intention to review it. Question arises why Modi transferred the case to NIA? Incidentally Congress and NCP had even publicly objected to Uddhav’s decision to give consent to the NIA to take over the case.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that judiciary, especially the lower courts have been flouting the Supreme Court’s dictum of bail as ’rule’ and jail as ’exception’. If this has been followed then probably Stan would not have died. Former justice Madan B. Lokur rightly observed that Swamy’s death was ’very unfortunate and tragic’. It is irony that SC’s dictum is breached more than honoured by the lower courts, as was evident in the case of Father Stan Swamy. A law cannot really be classified as a “law” unless it imbibes within itself the ideals of justice and equity. Laws must be clear and accessible and the people at least ought to know what the laws are.

After the international fraternity started questioning and condemning the NIA and the government about the death of Swamy, the external affairs ministry came out with the explanation that the arrest and detention of Father Stan Swamy had been made by following the “due process” of law and that India remained committed to the protection of the human rights of all its citizens. But it did not spell out what were the charges, why he was arrested and why the charges were not made public. On every occasion the government claimed that the case was under investigation.

According to Stan Swamy, he was interrogated by the NIA for about 15 hours between July 25 and August 7, 2020. On September 30, 2020, he was summoned to attend the office of the NIA in Mumbai on October 5, which he declined at short notice due to his old age (83 years) and the pandemic situation. This did not seem to deter the NIA officials, who went to Ranchi and arrested him on October 8, 2020 in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case and lodged him in Taloja Jail near Mumbai. A charge sheet was filed against him (and others) the next day spelling out offences under the UAPA.

Interestingly, the NIA did not seek his custody but directly requested the court to remand him to judicial custody. The reason is quite obvious – he was not required for interrogation and the charge sheet against him was ready for filing and was, in fact, filed the next day. Therefore, what was the need to detain him at all? And why in Mumbai and not in Ranchi? What about his age (83 years), medical condition and so on?

The fact of the matter seems to be that the NIA did not want to examine him any further, but it seems that it wanted to punish him for some alleged offences that is too without a trial. And so, the bail application was hotly contested by the NIA and ultimately rejected by the trial court on March 22, 2021. It needs to be asked why it takes so many months to decide a bail application. Is it not possible to expedite the process considering the fact that the person seeking bail is in judicial custody? Does every under-trial prisoner have to be killed softly?

Spokesperson of the external ministry Arindam Bagchi was ague when he said: “Father Stan Swamy was arrested and detained by the National Investigation Agency following due process under law. Because of the specific nature of the charges against him, his bail applications were rejected by the courts. 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.” Unfortunately so far the NIA has not submitted the charges.

The external affairs minister Jaishankar must realise that the people are not fool, you cannot take them for ride for long. The sordid manipulations taking place would get exposed. The apex UN human rights agency said on Tuesday that it was “deeply saddened and disturbed” by the death of Fr Stan during his pre-trial detention and urged India and other countries to release individuals detained “without a sufficient legal basis”, including dissenters.

In this backdrop it is worth mentioning what Liz Throssel, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in Geneva; “Fr Stan had been held in pre-trial detention without bail since his arrest, charged with terrorism-related offences in relation to demonstrations that date back to 2018. He was a long-standing activist, particularly on the rights of indigenous peoples and other marginalised groups. While in Mumbai’s Taloja Central Jail, his health deteriorated and he reportedly contracted Covid-19. His repeated applications for bail were rejected. He died as Bombay High Court was considering an appeal against the rejection of his bail application” .

Throssell’s remarks and similar statements from the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights and the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom make it clear that India’s frequent iterations of commitment to democracy and human rights are being measured against actions on the ground.

“UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and the UN’s independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders associated with the same events with the Government of India over the past three years and urged their release from pre-trial detention,” Throssell said.

It is significant to note that Stanislaus Lourduswamy alias Stan Swamy has been hailed as a martyr by fellow Jesuits. The last time a death was termed as martyrdom by the Church in India was in 2011 when catholic nun Valsa John Malamel was hacked to death in Jharkhand. Clothed in the red vestment that symbolises martyrdom for Catholics, Stan Samy was hailed as a martyr by fellow Jesuits at his funeral service in Mumbai on Tuesday.

It is worth mentioning that in 2017, Pope Francis bestowed the “decree of martyrdom” — a path to sainthood where the process is shorter than other categories — on another nun, Rani Maria, who was killed for organising landless labourers near Indore in 1995.

Swamy was not a criminal or a terrorist was borne out by the reiteration of the Jesuits; “May the martyrdom of Stan inspire and challenge us and the entire nation to recommit ourselves to take forward the legacy of Father Stan in the mission of justice and reconciliation. We offer to God the friends of Stan, the hundreds of Adivasi undertrials who languish in jails on false charges. We offer the co-accused of Stan, accused of fabricated charges and now incarcerated” .

Frazer Mascarenhas, former principal of Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College and parish priest of the St Peter’s Church in Bandra where the Mass was offeredsaid; “He paid the price for doing his justice work. In that sense he is a martyr…. We don’t mean it in the religious context.” Stan was among 16 people arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case, which was expanded to a purge of “urban Naxals”; a term coined by RSS leaders to brand academics, lawyers and rights defenders.

Delivering the eulogy, Mascarenhas, the parish priest, said: “I like to remember him with the word he used for himself and for his friends. The word: ‘comrade’. He said ‘my comrades are important to me’. Don’t think for a while that comrade means Maoist, violent type. Nothing to do with Stan. That is absolutely a ridiculous accusation. Stan was gentle and one who loved peace. So, there is no question of violence about him. But he considered all those working for humanity, especially the deprived sections of humanity, as his comrades.”

The All India Catholic Union reaffirms this demand for a judicial enquiry, and also demands the repeal of the UAPA and such draconian laws under which thousands of people, old and young, have been put in jail and denied rudimentary justice. Feeling aggrieved by the rejection of the regular bail application as also the application for interim bail on grounds of health, Stan Swamy filed appeals before the Bombay high court. His plea for regular bail was first taken up for consideration on May 4, 2021 and was adjourned from time to time for obtaining medical reports and so on from teams of doctors. Swamy had informed the high court that when he came to Taloja Jail the core systems of his body were still functional. “But slowly there has been a steady regression of what my body’s main functions are. I could walk by myself, I could take a bath by myself, I could also write. But these functions are slowly disappearing. For eating, I’ve not been able to eat properly. Yesterday I was taken to JJ Hospital so I got an opportunity to explain what I should be given. My deterioration is more powerful than the small tablets that they give.”

Stan Swamy had told the court: No. I would not want to. I have been there thrice. I know the set-up. I don’t want to be hospitalised there. I would rather die. I would prefer this.” He is said to have added that he would like to be with his own. However, the next day, he was persuaded to get admitted in JJ Hospital, at his own cost.

The entire episode raises the question are the provisions of the UAPA more important than the provisions of the Constitution of India, particularly Article 21? Is it not possible to be more compassionate, humane, merciful and dignified, or is it that everyone must suffer indignity and disgrace at the hands of the powers that be?

The entire episode leaves behind a feeling that Stan Swamy was virtually thrust a sentence of death without charges being framed against him and without a trial. The judiciary is the primary organ which is tasked with ensuring that the laws that are enacted are in line with the Constitution. This is one of the main functions of the judiciary, that of judicial review of laws. The Supreme Court has held this function to be a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, which means that Parliament cannot curtail the same. How then the executive enacted UAPA and SC felt helpless.

Recalling the work of Father Swamy, Father Felix Raj, Vice-Chancellor, St Xavier’s University, Calcutta said, “This is a great loss to the country and the tribal community of Jharkhand in particular. He had stood by them till the end of his life. With his death, the work that he was doing for the marginalized community has come to an end. It’s sad to see a man of the stature of Father Stan Swamy being treated the way he has been. He was no criminal. He was an 84-year-old priest, working for the poor. He was denied bail till the very end of his life. He wouldn’t have absconded.”

Renowned scholars have, therefore, argued that a law cannot really be classified as a “law” unless it imbibes within itself the ideals of justice and equity. An “unjust law” might not have the same moral legitimacy as a “just law”, but it might still command the obedience of some sections of the society to the detriment of others. The first principle is that “laws must be clear and accessible”. The idea of the judiciary, as a “guardian” of the Constitution, brings me to the fourth and final principle: The presence of a “strong independent judiciary”. The judiciary is the primary organ which is tasked with ensuring that the laws that are enacted are in line with the Constitution. This is one of the main functions of the judiciary, that of judicial review of laws. The Supreme Court has held this function to be a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, which means that Parliament cannot curtail the same.