No one who watches Father Stan Swamy’s last video message will be able to hold back a dull heaviness in the chest. A sense of profound depression about where India is at present with regard to the democracy it preaches loftily—and wears so ostentatiously on its sleeve at global fora. A democracy it makes sure it violates at every possible step back home when no one is looking. In the dark cells of our prisons, teeming with thousands of undertrials. Recorded before his arrest by the NIA on 8 October 2020, the video shows the 84-year-old campaigner for Adivasi freedoms talking with saintly calm, speaking against the injustice, yet stoically ready to face it on behalf of everyone. Words that leave you in no doubt about what exactly our ‘system’ has done. It has killed a man who was fighting peacefully, using perfectly non-violent means, to ensure the tribals of central India are given justice. That the oldest inhabitants of this land are not treated like criminals for seeking their basic rights—over “3,000 young Adivasis are languishing in jail”, he says. “They wanted to put me out of the way, and the easiest way was to implicate me in some serious cases.” Fr Swamy has never even visited Bhima Koregaon. What was claimed as evidence? “Files on his computer.” Global digital forensics experts have clearly linked “files on the computer” in the Bhima Koregaon cases to malware that can plant such evidence.
If there was real evidence in a serious case, India would at the bare minimum expect speedy investigation and prosecution—instead of the sick spectacle of the courts waiting for an old man suffering from Parkinson’s to be ground to death by prison, denying him bail again and again, refusing him even a dignified death. The debate over UAPA and its lethal Section 43D(2) has just begun—wait for the global opprobrium, the only thing that seems to work.