Stan Swamy died Monday afternoon in the Holy Family Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai. A thorn in the Narendra Modi government’s unknown plan for development in the forests of Jharkhand has been removed. Those who wanted him out of the way will be happy — though crocodile tears may be shed.
Citizens of this ancient land who have a heart will shed a genuine tear or two. I am one of those who is grieved. There will be many more like me, some vocal but mostly silent mourners whose cerebral dislike for injustice rankles in their guts. I may be categorised as a co-religionist of the Jesuit priest, but the great majority of the mourners cannot be accused of even a whiff of parochial feelings.
The case against Stan
Why was this tribal rights activist thrown into jail? First, for ‘pro-Maoist’ leanings! Then, he is supposed to have plotted with other Leftist intellectuals to overthrow the State that the Maoists do not recognise. He is even supposed to have plotted to assassinate Prime Minister Modi! The evidence to prove these serious charges are allegedly on the computer that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seized earlier this year. The evidence has not been brought before a court, except, I presume, in the form of case diaries of investigation shown to trial magistrates for the purpose of ensuring that Stan Swamy was kept in jail under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which was amended in 2019 to make it impossible for those charged of ‘terrorism’ to be released on bail.
Rona Wilson, another co-accused in the Bhima-Koregaon ‘conspiracy’ case, had allegedly been provided with a pen drive that, according to the NIA, contained the main evidence of guilt. Wilson’s defence team sent that piece of explosive evidence to a leading forensic expert in Boston, Massachusetts, US. The expert opined that the evidence was inserted on Wilson’s computer very cleverly over a period of a few years through malware.
This opinion was sent to other experts in the US by The Washington Post, who ratified it. The Boston expert said that he had never encountered such a neat and clever insertion of false evidence on a computer in his many years of work on the subject. I am ashamed to admit that I am technologically illiterate. My grandchildren laugh at me for my weakness. Soon, my great-grandchildren will join them, but the truth is that I am in no position to say how the crime was committed.
It is a mystery that can be solved only if the government wishes to establish the truth. At the moment, its minions are sticking to their guns. Their experts, they say, have given their opinion and they will not consider contrary views of extra-territorial experts who they do not recognise.
This stand condemns the 15 other accused currently in jail without trial, a concept abhorrent to jurisprudence in the free world. For a government that is eager to put away Left-wing activists who slow down development by insisting on the rights of the indigenous tribes as mandated by law, the stakes obviously are high. Tribal lands cannot be utilised for exploitation, especially if they are located in reserved forests. These laws are legislated by governments that do not lay any store in enforcing the laws they themselves enact. In fact, to the contrary, they expect these laws to be breached and, in the process, line their own pockets and fill the coffers of the government.
Stan Swamy was a stumbling block to such grand designs. He explained the law to the tribals and actively advocated their cause. An alert and empowered community is an enigma that the government, any government, would be keen to remove from its path. The means to this end, diabolical and patently criminal, appears to have been employed.
Pause a while here and take into account the possibility of false evidence being deliberately introduced on computers via malware. The Boston expert opined he had never come across such ingenuity in his long career exposing cybercrime. Obviously, we have a genius, albeit evil, here in our country. His/her genius should have been used to counter our hostile neighbours to our west and east. If we do really have such a genius in our midst, the government should exploit the advantage, but not against its own citizens who are out to help the helpless and the historically excluded.
Stan Swamy, the 84-year-old Catholic Jesuit priest I must pay my homage to, was a man who laid down his life for his friends. No greater love can a man have than that. The Jesuit order enforces its law on obedience very strictly. The Catholic Church frowns on Communism; Maoist philosophy is anathema to it. It was impossible for Fr. Stan, for any Jesuit for that matter, to defy that injunction, that too for many years. It is ridiculous for the government to make us believe that Stan Swamy could have been involved in a conspiracy to kill the prime minister.
Fr. Stan Swamy, lived a life of service to the poor and the oppressed. And he paid for his commitment. A Tamilian, he opted for the Jesuit province of Jharkhand over his own Tamil Nadu. He would have preferred to die amongst his adopted children, the Adivasis of Jharkhand.
But the Modi government and the NIA thought otherwise. Stan Swamy’s only consolation was that in Bandra’s Holy Family Hospital, he was among those who loved him and cared about him.
The author is a retired IPS officer, former Mumbai Police commissioner and DGP, Gujarat and Punjab. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)