Members of the civil society on Sunday urged the chief justice of the Bombay High Court to intervene and provide relief to ailing activist Stan Swamy. They demanded that the 84-year-old, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and has been put on ventilator support, should be granted bail immediately and allowed to return to Jharkhand.
Swamy had been in jail for nine months in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. He is currently being treated at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai.
In May, Swamy had tested positive for Covid-19 after being shifted to the hospital on the Bombay High Court’s orders. The court had later extended his hospital stay till July 5 as he needed extensive care.
“On 4th July early morning, his [Swamy’s] heart rate started falling and he was put on the ventilator,” a statement from Father Joseph Xavier said. “Twice in the morning the hospital has administered CPR [Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation] and revived the heartbeat. Father Stan revived to some extent. He was conscious, with eyes open. Currently he is sedated, and doctors are attending to his needs.”
Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai on Monday morning said that as the activist was on ventilator support, the current priority was his treatment. “His health condition is such that he will continue being in the hospital,” he told PTI.
On Sunday, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, a civil liberties and democratic rights organisation, wrote an open letter to the chief justice of the Bombay High Court. The letter noted Swamy’s “irreversibly deteriorating condition”.
“Stan Swamy’s plea is extremely urgent,” the statement from the organisation said. “He has Parkinson’s disease and has been experiencing worsening tremors and stiffness. He suffers from hearing loss in both ears, has undergone two hernia operations, and has intense pain due to lumbar spondylosis.”
The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights said it was “beyond comprehension” why an activist with multiple ailments was being “compelled to suffer in this manner at his age on charges that are yet to stand scrutiny in court”.
“We believe an octogenarian ought not to be punished with incarceration that is inhuman and unnecessary,” the statement said.
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On Sunday, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha renewed its demand for the activist’s release as his health condition worsened.
“The NIA [the National Investigation Agency] and central government are solely responsible for the sufferings of this elderly person and the current state of affair,” the civil rights group said.
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha said that even though he had shown severe symptoms related to Covid-19 during his time in Taloja prison, he had not been tested for an infection.
“Without an iota of evidence against him in the case, he languished in jail and is now battling for his life (still under arrest),” the statement said. “Also, denying bail to an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension.”
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demanded the central and Maharashtra governments to ensure “all necessary medical and specialised treatment be urgently ensured for Stan Swamy”.
Karwan e Mohabbat, a people’s campaign devoted to equality, freedom and justice, noted Swamy’s contribution to uphold the rights of tribal groups. “Father Stan Swamy, who prefers to bear his pain quietly, is deeply unwell in Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai,” the campaign’s Twitter account posted. “His bail hearing has been delayed again. The 84-year-old Jesuit priest has campaigned for the rights of tribals on land, forest and labour for most of his life.”
Author Natasha Badhwar tweeted: “Father Stan Swamy stands as a symbol of struggle and resistance against the repression of tribals. Falsely implicated and arrested in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, Stan Swamy needs the nation to demand his release as he battles for his life today.”
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor had on Sunday called on the authorities to provide “every possible specialist treatment” to the activist.
The National Human Rights Commission also issued a notice on Sunday to the Maharashtra government, noting the worsening health condition of tribal rights activist. The human rights commission also sought a report on allegations against the Taloja jail authorities over the treatment provided to Swamy. The commission asked for the report to be filed within four weeks.
The case against Swamy
Swamy was arrested on October 8 by the National Investigation Agency from Ranchi, and brought to Mumbai the next day.
The activist has been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and terror-related offences of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The National Investigation Agency has claimed that Swamy had helped the cause of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) through various civil rights organisations he worked with.
On July 3, Swamy moved the Bombay High Court challenging a section of the anti-terror law that bars granting of bail to an accused if the court finds that the allegations against them are prima facie true.
In his bail plea in March, Swamy had said that he was being targeted by the NIA because of his writings and work related to caste and land struggles of the people.
The NIA has claimed that it has sufficient evidence to prima facie prove that Swamy was involved in the conspiracy to instigate caste violence in the Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018.
Several activists and academics have been accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.