Fr. Stan Swamy is no more. A Jesuit priest, Fr. Stan Swamy spent several decades working for the rights of Adivasis and Dalits before he was framed ,falsely implicated and arrested by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) in conjunction with the Bhima Koregaon investigation.
Fr. Stan, aged 84 years, was lodged in Taloja Central Jail since his arrest on 8th October 2020. He was suffering from serious ailments including Parkinsons disease, hence it was difficult for him to even hold a cup or a glass to drink water. The prison authorities denied him a sipper compelling him to move the Court, which gave the NIA 20 days to respond to the request! It is only after immense public pressure that his request was heeded to, notably several weeks after he asked. UAPA charges effectively meant that his bail applications were inevitably rejected.
His already critical health condition was worsened by the incarceration and inhuman prison conditions leading to him contracting Covid. It was only then that, on an application filed by him in the Bombay High Court, that he was finally moved to the Holy Family hospital in Mumbai and has since been in the hospital. During the hearing, the Division Bench, of the Bombay High Court, hearing the matter, personally interacted with Fr. Stan over a video call on 21st May, when the told this to the Judges: Eight months ago, I would eat by myself, do some writing, walk, I could take bath by myself, but all these are disappearing one after another. So Taloja Jail has brought me to a situation where I can neither write nor go for a walk by myself. Someone has to feed me. In other words, I am requesting you to consider why and how this deterioration of myself happened.
Now Fr. Stan is no more. The Bhima Koregoan case is being operated by the Modi-Shah Government as an instrument to jail any voice of dissent. Criminal law and the investigative machinery are weaponised to stifle any political dissent. UAPA obliterates basic principles of the Rule of law, with jail, and not bail, being the norm. Taloja Central Prison authorities oversaw and ensured the regression of Fr. Stans health, denying him a sipper for more than a month. As lawyers though, it is the failure of the Courts, entrusted by the Constitution with the duty of protection of our rights, that stands apart. As Justice A.P. Shah puts it: The only institution capable of stopping the death of democracy is aiding it. The use and abuse of the UAPA is so rampant now that even retired judges of the Supreme Court have expressed their grave concern at the apparent indifference of the courts, which are disinclined to grant bail.
AILAJ pays tribute to Fr Stan Swamy by reiterating its resolve to fight for the repeal of UAPA and all draconian laws, and for the release of all human rights advocates and activists targeted and jailed by the present majoritarian Union government.