(Asian Independent)- The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) is deeply distressed by the death of Fr. Stan Swamy, who spent his entire life in the service of Jharkhand’s adivasis and other marginalized communities in India. What adds to the tragedy is the irony that a person like Fr. Stan Swamy who strived to improve the plight of under-trials died as one. The state has failed Fr. Stan Swamy in the worst possible way.
It seems clear that Fr Stan Swamy was targeted and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to harass and persecute him. This was to make sure that it served as an example to all Human Rights workers and defenders, so that they could be booked under terrorism charges, with impunity. It makes it even more outrageous that an octogenarian suffering from Parkinson’s disease should be treated in this manner and subjected to inhuman conditions. This impacts not only the specific case of Fr Stan, but democracy itself.
It is pertinent to remember the observation of the Delhi High Court while granting bail recently to 3 CAA protestors booked under the UAPA: “We are constrained to express that it seems, that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred. If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy”.
The Authorities lost all human decency in denying Fr Stan access to basic medical necessities including sippers to drink liquids. Having arrested Fr. Stan Swamy on October 8th, 2020, the NIA did not even ask for custody for interrogation even once, let alone charge him. He was in judicial custody the entire time, without the trial even beginning. He therefore got no opportunity to prove his innocence. Being booked under UAPA he could not be given bail and as a result, for someone as ill as Fr. Stan Swamy, this process was practically a death sentence, without trial.
As an organisation that has worked to improve accountability of the state, the MKSS demands that these draconian laws be reviewed. Fr. Stan Swamy’s case needs many kinds of critical examination to bring closure to the life and work of a person who strived for the poor and marginalised all his life. In a real democracy there has to be constant vigilance to hold state excesses and the criminal justice system, including intelligence agencies, accountable. Unjust laws need to repealed to protect the rule of law itself. The best possible way to remember Fr. Stan Swamy, who sought criminal justice reform, is to make his dream a reality.