CHENNAI: Father Stan Swamy died on this day last year.
The image that immediately comes of the Jesuit priest who worked for the welfare of tribal people in Jharkhand for nearly three decades is that of the jailed activist, who had Parkinson's disease, waging a legal battle for a sipper and straw in Taloja Central Jail.
He was one of the activists and scholars arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case in 2020. He died while being in custody, in a hospital where he was admitted after he tested positive for Covid-19. He died waiting to be granted bail. He died with the tag, "India's oldest political prisoner."
The Twitterati remembered the late activist who in a poem shared from the prison wrote, ‘You’ comes first / ‘I’ comes after / ‘We is the air one breathes.
Meanwhile, eleven activists accused in the Elgar Parishad case and lodged in Taloja prison, reportedly observed a day-long fast on Tuesday. They alleged that the death of Father Stan Swamy was "brutal assassination by the prison administration, the NIA, and the government."
"A year ago, this day, the state had Father Stan Swamy killed," the letter alleged, adding the situation continues to be the same in jail, noted Sudhir Dhawale, in a letter written to the Taloja prison superintendent and counsels.
According to the PTI, apart from Dhawale, those observing the fast are activists Surendra Gadling, Arun Ferreira, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Hany Babu, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha.
The letter claimed that while in prison, Swamy had to struggle for access to basic facilities, including a sipper or a simple walking stick. "He had to file petitions in court for everything," the letter said.
It further alleged that when Swamy fell seriously ill, instead of making medical care available, the prison authorities kept him confined to jail.
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(With PTI inputs)