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“Until his last breath, Stan had hope in the judiciary,” recalled Sheela*, a Delhi-based lawyer who asked to be anonymous for fear of being targeted. “He was waiting for the July 3 hearing where his interim bail plea was to be taken up. I think when that did not happen, he finally lost hope.”
Sheela was referring to Stan Swamy, a social scientist and Adivasi rights activist, who died on July 5 in custody, charged with being a left-wing extremist under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
It was with this belief in the judiciary that she had worked with Swamy on his last project, a public interest litigation filed in 2017, against the prolonged judicial custody of impoverished Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Class prisoners in non-bailable offences in Jharkhand. But before the court could reach a decision, Swamy himself died in custody in a Mumbai hospital, after seven months of incarceration as an undertrial in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, charged under the draconian law.
Now, his friends and colleagues, including lawyers and activists, take forward the work Swamy had lived and died for. But his death has been a major blow for dissent and prisoners rights in Jharkhand, they told IndiaSpend.
“The state has successfully crushed a voice of civil society,” said lawyer Shyam…