Adivasis and the Society of Jesus have taught me to lead a simple life: Fr Stan Swamy
He is grateful for the food and toilet facilities and has asked for prayers for an ailing Varavara Rao
Jesuit Priest Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old human rights defender, who is lodged in Taloja Jail, has written a short letter. The oldest person to be questioned and arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, Fr. Stan was sent to judicial custody by a Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court. The well known tribal rights activist and educator was arrested by the NIA from his home in Bagaicha in Ranchi, at night on October 8. Frail and aged, was then taken at dawn on October 9, by the 9.30 A.M flight from Ranchi to Mumbai for a hearing at the Sessions court and the charge sheet was filed.
Fr. Stan has been lodged in Taloja Jail since then. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease, which makes it difficult for him to hold a cup or a glass to drink water. He had moved court to be provided a straw or sipper for this purpose, but the National Investigative Agency (NIA) was given 20 days to respond to the request.
He had brought along a “sipper-tumbler”, to drink tea and water, however, it was taken away at the prison gate, when he entered on October 9. 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,” the elderly priest writes from Taloja Jail.
What is striking about this letter is that he has expressed no complaints about the jail, his life as a priest and living in the Adivasi villages has always been simple. He has never had any luxuries that he may be missing in jail. He is grateful to the prison administration that “provides breakfast, tea, milk, lunch and dinner,” and says “newspapers, toiletries, stationary and other essentials can be purchased through the prison canteen”. He adds that his “needs are limited, but has asked for “prayers for an ailing Varavara Rao, a co-accused in the same case and another ailing undertail in jail.”
This is what Fr Stan recently wrote from prison….
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.
Fr. Stan Swamy SJ
The above is the purportedly the second letter written by Fr. Stan Swamy SJ from prison, and is circulating among his many friends and in human rights circles across the country, and the world. On Diwali Fr. Stan Swamy SJ, had written a note with the help of prison mate Arun Ferreira. Swamy had informed his friends that he was lodged in a small cell in Taloja Central Jail with two other inmates. Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were in another cell. They sometimes met when cells and barracks were opened, Swamy wrote, “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.” Here too, he had no complaints and was grateful that he had been “given a western commode chair”. He shared that Vernon helped him bathe and the two inmates he shared the cell with “helped out during supper, in washing my clothes and give massage to my knee joints.” They are from very poor families he wrote and once again asked that his fellow “inmates and my colleagues in your prayers,” he reassured his friends that “ Despite all odds, humanity is bubbling in Taloja prison.”
This is what he wrote…
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.
The 83 Year-Old Swamy is a well known human rights defender and a longtime resident of Jharkhand, Stan Swamy has spoken for the land and livelihood rights of India’s Adivasis, when he was arrested he quoted poet Kahlil Gibran: “Life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one” to end his personal statement. The statement was released by his colleagues after a posse of NIA officials landed at his ashram in Ranchi and took Stan Swamy away.
This was his statement at that time:
I was interrogated by NIA for 15 hours during a span of 5 days (July 27,28,29,30, Aug. 6). Apart from my bio-data and some factual information, several extracts allegedly taken from my computer implicating my connection to maoist forces were placed before me. I told them all these are fabrications stealthily put into my computer and I disowned them.
The nature of the present NIA investigation of me has nothing to do about Bhima-Koregaon case in which I have been booked as a ‘suspected-accused ’ and consequently raided twice (28 August 2018 and 12 June 2019). But it had everything to do to somehow establish (i) that I am personally linked to extremist leftist forces, (ii) that through me Bagaicha is also relating to some maoists. I denied both these allegations in strongest terms.
After six weeks of silence, I am being summoned to appear in NIA-office in Mumbai. I have informed them
(i) that I fail to understand the need for interrogating me further given the fact I have been subjected to that for 15 hours already,
(ii) that I am not in a position to undertake the long journey given my age (83) and the nature of the epidemic ravaging the country. Besides Jharkhand State Govt has given a directive that during the lockdown period elderly persons above the age of 65 may not appear in public, (iii) that if the investigating agency wants to interrogate me further it can be done through video-conference.
If NIA will refuse to consider my request and insist that I go to Mumbai, I’ll tell them that it will not possible for me to go for the above reasons. Hoping human sense will prevail. If not, I / we must be ready to face the consequences.
Grateful to all who have stood in solidarity with me all these years.
The National Platform for the Rights of Disabled (NPRD) has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asking for ‘reasonable accommodations’ for 83-year old Fr. Stan Swamy. The response is awaited. The most patient here has been Fr Stan Swamy himself.
Courtesy : Sabrang