The Judiciary is the Defence of the Innocent. Or so we thought...
Father Stan Swamy dies in state custody at 84 The Judiciary is the Defence of the Innocent. Or so we thought. Fr. Stan Swamy is dead. The bail which was his right was denied to him. Despite his age - 84 years and being afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease
Who (and/or what) killed this Great Soul, is not any more the question. The threat facing every law abiding citizen of India, who deeply value Constitutionalism, who fight for Deep Democracy, Equity, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Freedom, and who have the courage to dissent and question the actions of the State when it works against the people, is that they are labelled anti-nationals and terrorists.
Quite regularly they are thrown into jail on all sorts of fabricated cases.
Stan was one of the accused in the infamous Bhima Koregaon case. All accused in this case have dedicated their lives struggling for human rights of the most vulnerable, and against social injustices and environmental destruction.
Activists, academics, lawyers, trade unionists, students, journalists.
Draconian laws, such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a law which even the colonial British would be embarrassed to enact, has been used to attack their Fundamental Freedoms and that of so many across India.
Stan would not want us to grieve on his passing. But he would most certainly want us to rise in protest against abuse of law, against abuse of power, against fabrication of cases against dissenters, and most particularly to rise up and hold high with pride the Constitution of India - as he did.
Stan would want us to proudly stand up and defend the Constitution, defend human rights, defend democracy.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) could not produce any logical or legally acceptable evidence against Stan, or others co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Yet NIA blocked Stan’s and rights of others accused to secure bail. Time and again.
At the age of 84, as a Parkinson’s patient, Stan was unable to even sip water. But NIA denied him even a sipper which he requested to sip water.
Locked up in Taloja jail in Mumbai from 8th October 2020, Stan repeatedly sought bail as was his right. That right was denied him.
Will those responsible for his death now accept at least moral responsibility?
Stan would not want us to grieve for his death. He would, instead, want us to tirelessly demand accountability of the investigation agencies, of the Union Home Ministry, and also of the Judiciary, as he did till his very last breath.
A Jesuit priest, Stan lived a spartan life, always struggling for fundamental rights of Adivasis, Dalits and such other vulnerable communities. In his death, we have not lost a great soul of India. In his death every citizens' security from blatant abuse of police power and disregard for the rule of law has substantially weakened.
As a mark of respect for Stan, and to express your feelings, we invite you to join in an indefinite tribute for this great man
Monday, 5th July 2021, 6 pm (IST) onwards.
Zoom: http://bit.ly/3yttF9B . Follow live on facebook.com/groups/esgindia
Please share this widely.
The Background of the Bhima Koregaon Case
Current charges: Indian Penal Code: Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between groups on various grounds), 505(1)(b) (statement with intent to cause, or likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquility), 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons). UAPA: Sections 13 (unlawful activities), 16 (terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for terrorist act) 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang or organization) and 39 (offence relating to support given to terrorist organisation).
- December 31, 2017: Violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon.
- January 2, 2018: FIR filed blaming two Hindutva Right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Rao Bhide for the violence.
- January 8, 2018: FIR filed based on complaint by Tushar Damgude blaming “Leftist groups with Maoist links” who spoke at Elgar Parishad. The latter invoked Sections 153A, 505(1)(b), and 117, IPC. Those named were Sudhir Dhawale, Sagar Gorkhe, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaychor, Dipak Dhengale and Jyoti Jagtap.
- Ekbote was arrested and released on bail. Bhide was never arrested. Activists and scholars who had attended the Elgar parishad event then began to be arrested. Soon, many who were neither named in the FIR nor present at the event began to be arrested.
- April 17, 2018: In spite of the Pune JMFC’s refusal to issue a search warrant, Pune Police raided the Nagpur house of lawyer Surendra Gadling and the Delhi and Mumbai residences, respectively, of activists Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawle and confiscated their computers, hard drives, portable drives, personal DVDs of wedding and birthday parties. Laptops of other people also seized from Dhawle’s office, which is frequented by social workers.
- April 18, 2018: Electronic equipment seized sent to Regional Forensic Lab, Pune.
- April 25, 2018: Police obtained extracted information from RFL, claim to have found letter on Rona Wilson’s computer planning Modi’s assassination.
- June 6, 2018: Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen and Rona Wilson arrested by Pune Police.
- August 2018: Historian Romila Thapar and other scholars approached the Supreme Court demanding an independent probe into the allegations and complaining against the “high-handedness” shown by the Pune Police.
- August 28, 2018: Pune police raided the Hyderabad residence of poet Varvara Rao as well as Delhi houses of lawyers Sudha Bharadwaj and Vernon Gonzalvez, and writer Gautam Navlakha, and the Ranchi house of Fr. Stan Swamy, without any warrant. Rao, Bharadwaj, Gonzalvez, Navlakha, as well as Arun Ferreira, arrested.
- September 28, 2018: Supreme Court dismissed the Thapar petition, with Justice Chandrachud dissenting.
- November 15, 2018: Original chargesheet filed by Pune Police.
- February 21, 2019: Supplementary chargesheet filed by Pune Police.
- November 2019: After BJP-led government voted out in Maharashtra, centre transferred case from Pune Police to NIA.
- January 2020: NIA took over the BK case.
- April 14, 2020: Gautam Navlakha surrendered to NIA. A day before bail hearing in Delhi High Court, taken to Mumbai without court’s permission. Anand Teltumbde arrested despite 4 weeks’ protection granted by SC. Pune sessions court deemed the arrest illegal and ordered his release.
- July 28, 2020: Prof. Hany Babu arrested.
- September 4, 2020: NIA summoned Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe, members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), for questioning. Allegedly compelled to accuse the people arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case of being Naxalites.
- September 5, 2020: Gaichor and Gorkhe refused to make false statements.
- September 7, 2020: Gaichor and Gorkhe called again via witness summons and arrested. Later complained to a Mumbai sessions court that they were pressured to make false statements but the court found no irregularity in police conduct.
- September 2020: Jyoti Jagtap, also a member of KKM, arrested.
- October 8, 2020: Fr. Stan Swamy arrested.
The Evidence (Source: The Print, Firstpost)
- The claim: the accused are “active members” of Communist Party of India (Maoist), which was declared a terrorist organisation by the central government in June 2009.
- The evidence: literature on CPI (M) and several unsigned letters recovered from seized electronic devices, primarily from Wilson and Gadling’s devices, containing details of an assassination plan for Modi, and discussions on buying ammunition from Nepal.
- Claims in supplementary chargesheet filed by NIA: Gonsalves and Ferreira had enrolled members for banned CPI (M) and had a front organisation called the Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL). Bharadwaj was working through IAPL to accomplish the objects of CPI (M) to destabilise the country. Teltumbde, Navlakha, Babu, Gorkhe, Gaichor, Jagtap and Swamy conspired with other accused to further the ideology of terrorist organisation CPI (M) and abetted violence, brought into hatred & incited disaffection towards the Government.
The Framing (Source: The Print, Newslaundry, Firstpost, Washington Post, Scroll)
- Seized letters are typed, with no signatures of any of the accused.
- Even Chandrachud J. noted several doubts about the authenticity of a letter seized from Wilson addressed to “Comrade Prakash” in his dissenting opinion in the Romila Thapar judgment: no independent panchas at the time of the raid, letter undated, contains Marathi forms of grammar and address, even though Wilson does not know the language.
- Wilson’s phone showed signs of last activity at 5.22 pm, and laptop was also used between 11.16 and 11.22 as per forensic report. Raid was claimed to have been conducted between 6.05 am and 2.02 pm.
- In February and April 2021, a US-based digital forensics firm Arsenal Consulting revealed through two reports that Wilson’s computer had been hacked and surveilled since March 2016, and several incriminating files used by the prosecution planted on his computer without his knowledge.
- Emails recovered from Gadling’s hard drive are all in .docx or .pdf formats, instead of being intercepted emails where details of the sender, receiver and time of the email can be verified externally. All these files were found on the desktop.
- Documents recovered from Raut and Rao include a document dated 27 January 2007, before CPI (Maoist) was declared a banned organisation in 2009, titled Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution, a document dealing with the work and strategies to be used in urban areas; another document titled Caste question in India — Our Perspective; an undated ‘Party Constitution’; and an undated ‘Party Programme’.
- Unique hash value of electronic evidence (cyber fingerprint to ensure non-tampering) not generated and shared with accused Wilson, Gadling and Dhawle before sending for forensic analysis, violating IT Act mandate. The same happened with Prof. Babu.
- Required list of materials confiscated not submitted to court after raids on Wilson, Dhawle, and Gadling.
- Witnesses from Pune brought for all these raids, violating CrPC mandate for independent witnesses.
- Gadling, Sen, Swamy and Bharadwaj taken to Amrawati without transit remand.
- No arrest memos provided to families of accused arrested in June, lawyers selected by police made to represent them.
- Matter heard and chargesheet filed before sessions court originally, in spite of mandate of NIA court to hear UAPA cases if available. However, once assigned to state government, a case cannot be reassigned. NIA transfer therefore irregular.
Human rights abuses and police apathy (Source: Newslaundry, NewsMinute, The Hindu):
- Gadling’s heart condition: wife not allowed to meet, nor granted medical reports. Cost not borne by state even though mandated.
- Raut’s gastric disease: biopsy reports not provided after treatment, in spite of several legal appeals.
- Sen’s commode chair: Daughter who brought the chair in view of mother’s arthritis turned away thrice. Request granted 1 month after arrest.
- Gadling’s sweater: Denied woollen sweater, police told wife to get thermal sweater. Thermal sweater denied for being full sleeve, told to get half sleeved sweater.Gadling denied bail to attend mother’s funeral and condolence meeting.
- Dhawle denied bail to attend brother’s funeral and condolence meeting.
- Varavara Rao’s UTI and dementia: after health worsened in May, admitted to JJ Hospital but brought back to jail before tests could be completed. Family members found him with a urine soaked bed and pyjamas in jail. Sent to St. George Hospital after catching Covid. Admitted to Nanavati after NHRC intervention. Sent back to jail in August without informing the court or his family. Admitted back to Nanavati after a 2 month long legal fight.
- Father Stan’s Parkinson’s: Request for sipper and a straw to eat was met only after 4 weeks. His medical bail application was rejected by the NIA in February 2021. On May 28, the Bombay High Court finally allowed him to be admitted to a private hospital. 2 days later, he was diagnosed with Covid-19, and suffered a massive cardiac arrest yesterday, July 4.
Father Stan’s Letters from Jail
Thank you so much for the solidarity support by so many, for me and my co-accused. I am really grateful. The Prison administration provides breakfast, tea, milk, lunch and dinner. Any additional edibles are to be purchased from the prison canteen, twice a month. Also, newspapers, toiletries, stationary and other essentials can be purchased through the prison canteen. My needs are limited. The Adivasis and the Society of Jesus have taught me to lead a simple life. I had brought with me a “sipper-tumbler”, to drink tea and water. However, the same was disallowed at the prison gate, on entry on 9 October. Now, I am using a baby-sipper mug, which I purchased through the prison hospital. I have communicated this need to our lawyers. I am still awaiting to receive the sipper-tumbler. Varavara Rao is very sick. Kindly, pray for him. Listening to the life-narratives of the poor prisoners is my joy in Taloja. I see God in their pains and smiles.
Peace! Though I do not have many details, from what I have heard, I am grateful to all of you for expressing your solidarity support. I am in a cell approximately 13 feet x 8 feet, along with two more inmates. It has a small bathroom and a toilet with Indian commode. Fortunately, I am given a western commode chair.
Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira are in another cell. During the day, when cells and barracks are opened, we meet with each other. From 5.30 pm to 06.00 am and 12 noon to 03.00 pm, I am locked up in my cell, with two inmates. Arun assists me to have my breakfast and lunch. Vernon helps me with bath. My two inmates help out during supper, in washing my clothes and give massage to my knee joints. They are from very poor families.
Please remember my inmates and my colleagues in your prayers.
Despite all odds, humanity is bubbling in Taloja prison.
I deeply appreciate the overwhelming solidarity expressed by many people around the world, in these 100 days in prison. Sometimes the news of so much solidarity has given me immense strength and courage, especially when the only certain thing in prison is uncertainty. Another source of strength in these last hundred days has been to observe the difficult situation of the other prisoners awaiting trial. Most of them come from economically and socially disadvantaged communities. Many of these poor people do not even know what charges have been brought against them and have never seen their indictment.
They remain in prison for years, without any legal assistance. Overall, almost all prisoners are forced to live with the bare necessities, rich or poor. This condition creates a sense of brotherhood and solidarity in the community of prisoners: one learns that it is possible to support one another in spite of adversity. We 16 co-defendants cannot meet because we are housed in different prisons or in different departments within the same prison. But we will continue to raise our voices in the future . A caged bird can still sing.
One of Fr. Stan Swamy’s last messages
“What is happening to me is not something unique, happening to me alone. It is a broader process that is taking place all over the country. We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, student leaders – they are all put in jail just because they have expressed their dissent… I am ready to pay the price whatever may it be”
In Conversation with Father Stan Swamy (2017) by Lokayat
Jharkhand's Stan Swamy's statement against the police raid at his place
Don't Wish PM Any Ill, Only Wish For True Governance: Father Stan Swamy’s interview with NDTV
I Won't Be A Silent Spectator, I Am Ready To Pay The Price by Karwan e Mohabbat
Fr. Stan 2.5 Min Mobile Version by Ashok Maridas (his last interview)
Songs of resistance
- Aye Bhagat Singh Tu Zinda Hain by Sheetal Sathe (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Bella Ciao (Wapas Jao) - Hindi Version by Poojan Sahil - The YouTube Video
- Bella Ciao (Wapas Jao)- Punjabi Version by Poojan Sahil - The YouTube Video
- Go Protest by Sumit Roy and Aman Agarwal (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Halla Bol by Kanti Mohan (Language: Hindi) - the YouTube Video
- Hitler ke Saathi by Sambhaji Bhagat (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Ho Gayi Hai Peer Parvat Si by Dushyant Kumar (Language: Hindi) - The poem and the YouTube Video
- Hum Dekhenge by Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Le Mashale Chal Pade Hain Log Mere Gaon ke by Balli Singh Cheema (Language: Hindi)- The Poem and the Video
- Laal Jhanda Lekar Comrade by Reyazul Haque (Language: Hindi) - The song and the YouTube video
- Nafas Nafas Kadam Kadam (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Nijeder Mawte Nijeder Gaan by Anirban Bhattacharya (Language: Bengali) - The YouTube Video
- Poorna Swaraj - RollsRoy's (Language: English & Hindi Rap) - The YouTube Video
- Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega, Sab Kuch Yaad Rakha Jayega by Aamir Aziz (Language: Hindi) - The Poem and the YouTube Video
- Remake of Sau Mein Sattar Aadmi by Adam Gondvi (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Remake of Gaon chodab nahi (we will not leave our village) by Bhagwan Maaji (Language: Hindi) - the Video
- Zulm (feat. Parimal Shais)- Rap by Armaan Yadav (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Zanjeeren - song of protest was written by Hafeez Merathi (Language: Hindi) - The YouTube Video
- Zalim Humein Azmana written by Aseem Sundan (Language: Urdu) - The YouTube Video
Father Stan Swamy: I’d rather suffer, possibly die if things go on as it is
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