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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 31, New Delhi, July 17, 2021

Which Leaders Are ’Good And True’? | TJS George

Friday 16 July 2021, by T J S George



So they succeeded in getting rid of Stan Swamy. It can be described as a politico-judicial killing. The politicians could not accept his fight for tribal rights and the way his simplicity gave muscle to that fight. The judiciary would not accept that he was fighting even as he was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s. The special court rejected Swamy’s bail application with the remark: "The collective interest of the community would outweigh the right of personal liberty of the applicant and, as such, old age and or alleged sickness would not go in his favour." After that bit of wisdom, it was easy for Death to take over.

The court’s highmindedness did indeed have the effect of a death sentence. There was a lack of medical facilities in the prison. The allopathic medicines given to him were on the prescriptions written by the Ayurvedic practitioners in the jail hospital. Besides, overcrowding in the jail made physical distancing impossible. The prison authorities justified all their actions and declared that Swamy had "a stable pumping heart and good blood circulation." They made no mention of him suffering from abdominal problems and pain due to lumbar spondylitis.

Swamy said he would undergo treatment at the Holy Family Hospital at his own cost. But the authorities insisted on the Government-run J J Hospital. Swamy was unwilling to accept that suggestion. "I have been there," he said. "Thrice. I know the setup there. I don’t want to be hospitalised there. I’d rather die." This should be read in conjunction with the National Human Rights Commission asking Taloja jail superintendent to respond to charges of denying medical facilities to Stan Swamy.

Taloja jail is famously overcrowded. Just as famously it is known to have only three doctors on call, all of them qualified in Ayurveda. The way Swamy was treated amounted to "killing him softly" as retired Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur put it.

At every turn the Government had made it clear that it was out to get Stan Swamy. This is the central fact that needs to be understood and recorded. For reasons that are rather obvious, the Government had come to the conclusion that Swamy, weak and sick though he was, had become a symbol of the Government’s intolerance towards those who had different opinions. This was evident from the time they moved him from Ranchi, his base, to Mumbai. Despite his old age (83) and visible infirmities, there was no medical examination as stipulated by law. The journey all but crippled him, but the Government’s determination was clear when he was arrested under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, charged with "participating in Maoist conspiracy to foment caste violence and assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi." No scope for mercy in the case of such a dangerous scoundrel.

Maharashtra police had interrogated him and searched his Ranchi residence. They had found nothing incriminating. But the Power Above could not accept that finding. So they brought in the NIA. Which of course produced the desired results and the Prime Minister was saved from assassination.

The number of would-be assassins jailed before they could strike is a tribute to the efficiency of our security forces. Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling were arrested in June 2018. Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao were taken in two months later. All were denied medical bail, with the exception of Varavara Rao whose condition had deteriorated drastically. Imagine how many people they would have assassinated if they were free.

Add to these names those of journalist Siddique Kappan whose mother passes away when he is in jail, and student activist Natasha Narwal whose father passes away when she is in jail. Why were they in jail? Who decided that they had committed crimes that made them too dangerous to be free? Why do those who have the power to arrest define as crime what ordinary citizens see as the routine of life? Why do honest and law-abiding citizens who want nothing but glory for their country end up as suspects in the eyes of this Government? Can such a Government be called democratic?

Questions don’t stop there. Why is Narendra Modi’s India scared of citizens who work for the glory of the country? Why does the Prime Minister see patriots as a threat? Why is he intolerant of those whose opinions differ from his? Why is he afraid of democracy? Is the answer somewhere in Mahatma Gandhi’s words: "To safeguard democracy, people must insist upon choosing as their representatives only such persons as are good and true."

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