Stan Swamy from Tamil Nadu is a Christian priest of the Jesuit order, who chose the tribal region for his service activities. On October 8, 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team that was investigating the widely debated Bhima-Koregaon case, arrested him with charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA. On January 1, 2018 Dalit organisations had mobilised a huge rally to commemorate the bicentennial of the Koregaon battle. The upper caste people made an attack on the Dalit conference, but none of the assailants was booked for any violation among the charges which formed the basis for the Bhima Koregaon case. But what followed was that activists, human rights campaigners, writers and academicians from all over the country were charged with violations under UAPA provisions and arrested. Eminent journalist Gautam Navkhala, Telugu poet Varavara Rao, human rights activists Arun Ferreira, lawyer and trade union leader Sudha Bharadwaj, well known academicians Anand Teltumbde and Shoma Sen, Keralite scholars Rona Wilson and Professor Hany Babu of Delhi University were the prominent ones arrested apart from Stan Swamy - all in detention in Mumbai's Taloja jail as accused in this case.
The 83-year old Stan Swamy is beset by health problems - hearing impairment in ears, back pain and other old age-related ailments. During his stay in jail, he had fainted four times. Above all, he has Parkinson's disease, and for this reason cannot hold a glass to drink anything. Therefore, he requested the court to grant him a straw and sipper cup to drink water. He pleaded that while being arrested on October 8, these were in his bag and it would suffice if he got access to his familiar straw and sipper cup in that bag. The court which considered his request, allowed NIA 20 days time to reply to this. NIA duly replied that the straw and sipper cup were not there in the bag they had seized: the only thing is that NIA took 20 full days to give this grand reply! The NIA also submitted to the court that it was for the prison authorities to decide whether or not to provide the items Swamy asked for in the jail. The court, which heard the request again on November 26, then took a decision, i.e. it sought the opinion of the prisons department, and the latter has now time till December 4. And that is the day for deciding whether to consider Stan Swamy's request for a straw and sipper cup! To be noted is this entire exercise lasting a full month, only to decide about a straw with which to drink water. Let us wait and see whether that straw will go through the security gates of Taloja jail to Stan Swamy's cell as a golden ray.
This is the chronology of events of an appeal by an octogenarian priest afflicted with Parkinsonism, who pleaded that due to shivering he could not hold a glass steady to drink water and therefore the court should show that mercy of a straw, and the judicial process that followed it. In fact, it normally would prompt ire and emotional reaction but for fear of contempt proceedings. If the justice system itself fails to offer rescue in the situation, then where else can there be hope? But make no mistake that such incidents happen in the case of a Stan Swamy alone. Varavara Rao, who was arrested in the same case, as per reports emerging, is battling with death. In spite of testing Covid positive, the court was not prepared to grant him bail. The renowned writer of Telugu land, bedeviled by multiple diseases, was not allowed even to meet his relatives. But it is the tale of Stan Swamy that makes a sad commentary about our justice administration system. It would appear as though a notion has taken over our entire system of the state that once charges of UAPA and sedition are slapped, there is no room or claim for justice and propriety.