“Despite all odds, humanity is bubbling in Taloja prison,” jailed human rights activist, 83-year-old Stan Swamy wrote to his friends from a small cell in Taloja Central Jail near Mumbai.
Excerpts from the letter were shared by Swamy’s friend, human rights activist John Dayal, on social media on 14 November.
Booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the 83-year-old Jesuit priest, who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, is a human and tribal rights activist based out of Jharkhand.
He was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from his residence in Ranchi on 8 October. On 6 November, his son moved court to get a straw and sipper cup for him to drink from. The NIA sought 20 days’ time to respond to Swamy's request, and the next date of hearing is scheduled on 26 November.
Swamy needs help with his chores inside the jail because of his ailment. His cell is 13 feet in length and 8 feet in breadth, and he shares this space with two other inmates.
Activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira are lodged in the same jail as well.
In the letter that Swamy wrote with the help of colleague and activist Ferreira, he expressed gratitude towards his inmates and colleagues. “During the day, when cells and barracks are opened, we meet with each other. From 5.30 pm to 06.00 am and 12 noon to 03.00 pm, I am locked up in my cell, with two inmates. Arun assists me to have my breakfast and lunch. Vernon helps me with bath,” he said in his letter.
Referring specifically to the two inmates Swamy shares his cell with, he said:
“My two inmates help out during supper, in washing my clothes and give massage to my knee joints. They are from very poor families. Please remember my inmates and my colleagues in your prayers.”
Thanking people for standing by him, he said, “Though I do not have many details, from what I have heard, I am grateful to all of you for expressing solidarity.”