Skip to main content

Why ailing Fr Stan said he be given bail, allowed to go to Ranchi, or be in Taloja jail

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* 

It was quintessential Stan! In a manner which has come to characterize him Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy told the Bombay High Court during a hearing on 21 May 2021, “I want to go to Ranchi to be with my friends… Whatever happens to me I would like to be with my own.”
Fr Stan who turned 84 a few weeks ago on April 26, has been lodged in the Taloja jail since his arrest on October 8, 2020. He was the last one of 16 to be arrested, in the Elgar Parishad/Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy case. That he had nothing to do with either is clear as daylight! 
His only ‘crime’ over the years, much to the chagrin of powerful, vested interests, was his total identification with the Adivasis and of his accompanying them, in their quest for a life based on justice, dignity and equity. So naturally, when Fr Stan says, “Whatever happens to me I would like to be with my own” -- he is making a very powerful statement of his life and mission.
Fr. Stan had approached the High Court some time ago challenging a Special Court's decision of March this year. In the order, the Special Court had rejected his bail sought on medical grounds as well as on merits. On May 21, Fr Stan was produced before a Division Bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and SP Tavade of the Bombay High Court, via video-conferencing from the Taloja prison, where he is lodged as an undertrial.
Some days ago in a telephonic conversation with a fellow-Jesuit he spoke about his deteriorating health condition. Ever since, plenty of efforts were being made from several quarters, to ensure that he receives the proper and adequate medical treatment and if needed, also hospitalisation.
Fr Stan reiterated this position telling the court that he had suffered much during his stay in prison: 
“I was brought here eight months ago. When I came to Taloja, my full system, my body was still very functional. But during these eight months, I have gone through a steady regression of all bodily functions. Eight months ago I could have a bath by myself and also do some writing by myself. But these are disappearing one after another. Taloja jail brought me to a situation where I can neither write nor go for a walk by myself or even eat. I am not able to meet this demand. Eating has become a real difficulty; someone has to feed me with a spoon.” 
He also spoke about the dire conditions in Taloja jail that prompted prisoners to help each other in the face of acute economic deprivation.
The Court then asked Fr Stan if he wished to be admitted to the Government-run JJ Hospital for a "general treatment in order to improve his overall health." His response was a categorial ‘no’ saying:
“I have been there twice. I am not for being hospitalised in JJ Hospital. What medicines will that hospital give me? It will not improve, it will keep going. I would rather die here very shortly if things go on as it is.... I was taken to JJ hospital and there were a lot of people but I had no opportunity to explain what I should be given. There are some medicines which the jail authorities game me, but my deterioration is more powerful than the tablets they are giving me."
Earlier the High Court was provided with a Medical Report of Fr Stan Swamy prepared by the JJ hospital. This report was submitted pursuant to the Court’s order of May 19, wherein the Dean of JJ Hospital had been asked to constitute a committee and to examine Fr Stan’s health condition on May 20. However, Fr Stan’s advocate, Senior Counsel Mihir Desai was not given a copy of the Report; therefore it had to be read out in the Court. The report mentioned that the petitioner’s poor health largely had to do with age.
The drama that unfolded in the virtual court hearing was vintage Fr Stan: someone who is very clear about his choices
The committee did not find any neurological defect or psychopathology. Some of the ailments mentioned in the report include the imbalance of limbs, lumbo sacral degeneration and some degree of hearing loss. It recommended urgent surgical assistance for the hearing loss and physical assistance owing to his general weakness. It also said that he required physical assistance in the form of a walking stick or a wheelchair.
However, his overall condition, his pulse rate etc., were stable and Swamy was "responsive" and "cooperative". Fr. Stan’s personal sharing to the High Court of his deteriorating health condition in fact thrashes this report.
The Court also informed Fr Stan that it was willing to issue orders to transfer him to JJ Hospital or any other hospital of his choice for the general treatment of his health, which was largely deteriorating due to his advanced age; the response of Fr Stan was very clear, "The only thing I request is to consider for interim bail. I have been in deteriorating condition. I would rather be in Ranchi. I do not think any of that (hospitalisation) is going to help." 
He also told the Court that his co-accused were worried about his health, and he believed that his condition would gradually worsen if he was kept back at Taloja Jail or any other hospital.
Advocate Desai was also given an opportunity to speak with Fr Stan during the video-conference. He then urged the court to adjourn the hearing for a week to permit him to speak again with Swamy and to convince him to get admitted to a hospital.
"Since he is a priest, he feels ‘forgive them, for they do not know what that do'... This is the approach he has taken," The High Court granted him the liberty to approach it again if Fr Stan changed his mind about hospital admission. The bench said, "Someone must have told him, or he himself is an intelligent man. He knows his problems are only age related. That's why he is pressing only for interim bail says won't take hospital admission."
The High Court in the meanwhile has directed the authorities of the Taloja prison to strictly comply with all the recommendations made by JJ Hospital in providing the necessary health facilities and treatment to Fr. Swamy while in prison. The Court finally posted the matter for hearing on June 7, 2021.
The drama that unfolded in the virtual court hearing was vintage Fr Stan: someone who is very clear about his choices: that he is innocent, that he should be given the bail to go back to Ranchi and to be with his people; if not, he would rather continue to be in Taloja jail identifying himself with his fellow-prisoners and even die there! Stan takes a stand!
However, whilst respecting his opinion, there are many others, who are genuinely concerned about his deteriorating health and would like him to be hospitalized as soon as possible. In this Ignatian Year: for Jesuit Fr Stan and for several others, his reality today is indeed a cannonball moment!
---
Gujarat-based human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer

Comments

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Believe this: US' 95% of Covid cases are Omicron, India's 2%, model Gujarat's 0.43%

By Rajiv Shah  Scanning through news stories on Omicron, the new Covonavirus variant said to have been found in South Africa, I came across an interested in story, published in the New York-based network, CBS News. According to this story, published a couple of days ago, “The Omicron variant made up around 95.4% of new Covid-19 cases in the US last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.”

Holding militant rallies across Punjab, farmers 'forced' Prime Minister to retreat to Delhi

By Harsh Thakor*  The farmers' spirit, elevated and reverberated at a boiling point in Ferozpur like a spark turning into a prairie fire, appears to be behind Prime Minister Narinder Modi having being compelled to retreat to Delhi due to a virtually boycotted pandal. Demonstrations held just ahead of Modi's visit, especially in Firozpur, seemed to have already created tremors in the belly of the ruling party.

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

Democratic leaders silently greeting Modi's 'increasingly autocratic' rule: HRW

Counterview Desk The Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s new “World Report 2022: Events of 2021”, claiming to “investigate abuses, expose facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice”, has identified India as one of the countries where “autocracy is ascendant and democracy on the decline” because of emergence of leaders with autocratic tendencies.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Not-so-Catholic priest expels parishioner from church: 'Woman improperly dressed'

By Rosamma Thomas*  On Sunday, January 9, 2022, Fr Emmanuel, parish priest of the Lady of Guadalupe Church at Murikumphuzha, Pala, Kerala, sent his sacristan Joseph to ask a middle-aged woman to please wait a little after the morning mass – the priest would like to meet her. The woman waited, and the priest called her to his office room. “You know we are Malayalees,” he said, and asked her whether she knew what would follow. “No, please tell me,” she said. “You know women cover their heads in church, and dress politely,” he said. The woman, who had just returned to Kerala a few months prior after living elsewhere, had been getting her house repaired and had not yet unpacked all her clothes.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".