The National Investigation Agency on Sunday dismissed reports that it had seized human rights activist Stan Swamy’s straw and sipper as “false, incorrect and mischievous”. It claimed that the agency neither recovered any such belongings from him, nor did it seek 20 days from a court to respond to his petition.
The clarification came hours after a report by the Mumbai Mirror said that the 83-year-old had been given a straw and sipper. Swamy was asked about his requirements on Saturday during the visit of Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Chhering Dorje, according to the newspaper.
In a ten-pointer news release, the agency said it never confiscated Swamy’s straw and sipper in the first place while arresting him nearly two months ago in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. “NIA had conducted his personal search in presence of independent witnesses and no such straw and sipper were found,” it said.
Also, since Swamy was in judicial custody, the central agency said that the matter of his personal belongings was between him and the jail authorities, which comes under the purview of the Maharashtra government.
“The reports claiming that NIA recovered straw and sipper from accused Stan Swamy and sought 20 days from the court to respond to Stan Swamy’s plea to allow him a straw and sipper in Taloja Central Jail, are false, incorrect and mischievous as NIA neither recovered any straw and sipper from the accused nor sought 20 days to file reply in said application,” the NIA said.
The agency added that Swamy was a “hard core” activist of the banned outfit, Communist Party of India (Marxist), who was chargesheeted by the NIA as one of the main conspirators of caste violence in the Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018.
Swamy, a tribal rights activist who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was arrested on October 8 in connection with the case and is currently lodged in Taloja Central Jail’s hospital.
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating disorder of the central nervous system that can cause involuntary tremors, or muscular spasms, which makes it difficult to perform actions like holding things, drinking, and sometimes even chewing or swallowing food.
An application was filed by the 83-year-old on November 6, seeking permission to allow him a straw and sipper in prison to drink water as he is unable to hold a glass. The NIA had sought 20 days to reply to Swamy’s plea. But on the date of the hearing, the agency informed the court that it does not have the straw or sipper because it did not have any of Swamy’s belongings.
Swamy’s lawyer then moved a fresh bail application seeking a straw, sipper and some winter clothes, this time based on the merits of the case. The plea will now be heard on December 4. In the meantime, the jesuit priest had been using a baby-sipper mug bought from the prison canteen, which he mentioned in one of his recent letters.
On Saturday, a group of lawyers sent sippers and straws to the jailed activist at Mumbai’s Taloja prison and urged the authorities to allow him to drink water with dignity. A huge campaign also began on social media to send sippers and straws to Swamy.
Swamy, however, is not the only undertrial in the Bhima Koregaon case with a serious medical condition. Telugu poet Varavara Rao’s health is also critical. On November 18, the Bombay High Court had directed Taloja jail authorities to shift him to Nanavati Hospital for 15 days, saying that he was almost on his deathbed.
The NIA took over the investigation in the Bhima Koregaon case from the Pune Police in January. All the accused in the case are booked for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial on January 1, 2018.