Messages from friends and family of the BK-16

Aug 31, 2023
By National Campaign to Defend Democracy

The National Campaign to Defend Democracy, of which PUCL is a member, organized two events in June and July to mark 5 years of Bhima Koregaon arrests. On 5th July, 2023, the National Campaign to Defend Democracy hosted a commemoration event to remember Father Stan who passed away two years ago on  5th July, 2021. The commemoration was attended by over 500 people with human rights activists, family members, politicians, UN officials, artists and lawyers speaking at the event. 


These events invited family members of all the arrested people and solidarity messages from several people. Some of the shared messages are here:


Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders


Dear friends, I wanted to send you a short message today to mark the second anniversary of Father Stan’s tragic and preventable death in Judicial custody, on the 5th of July, 2021. As I’ve said before, Father Stan’s death is a stain on India’s human rights record, and will continue to be, until those responsible for his treatment are brought to account. I also find it deeply distressing that the human rights defenders in the BK Case continue to be persecuted under the Draconian UAPA, but have not yet been brought to trial. A full five years after the event they’ve been accused of, took place. This is simply unacceptable. Once again, I urge the Indian government to withdraw the UAPA, carry out a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Father Stan’s death, and release those Human Rights defenders who are imprisoned because of their peaceful and legitimate work on behalf of others. Thank you.  


Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate


As far as Father Stan is concerned, I remember that two years back, at 2:30PM, when the Judge took up our matter during the COVID time. It was a virtual hearing, where the Judge said “Can we take it in the tomorrow morning, first thing in the morning?” So I had to tell him, that the Dean of the Hospital where he was admitted was there, and he would like to tell you something. And the Dean then said, “I’m sorry to inform you, but Father Stan has just passed away one hour back.” There was a stunned silence and everybody was shaken up by what had just happened. But this would never had happened if, as Father Joe also mentioned, that if he had not been arrested; yes, he partly died because of the prison conditions, but he would never have ended up in the prison if the state had carried out proper work, as it is supposed to carry out, and not arrested Stan; there was no case against Stan, and as you heard Stan say that there was certain material found on his computer which he didn’t even know existed, and this is true of the entire batch of people who have been arrested. Either something has been found on a computer or found on somebody else’s computer.


The prosecution, the investigating agency knew very well that these were fabricated. They knew very well that documents were fabricated. We said that the material that was found on his computer, we are entitled to our own copy, so we sent the material to a very reputed forensic laboratory which gave us a finding recently a few months back, that each one of them was a fabricated document. Each one of the documents on which the state was relying in order to prosecute him was a fabricated document. 


So there are two things which we are doing: One is a case has already been filed to hold a judicial enquiry into the cause of his death, the cause where its not just necessarily about whether he died of COVID or not died of COVID, but circumstances which led to his death. Second, we want him to be declared innocent. Of course the trial will not go against him because he is no more with us, but that’s not enough for us, we want him to be declared innocent. We want him to be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ not just he is dropped from the trial.  


The enquiry has started, just a month and a half back. We’ll know what is happening in that very soon. The second case which we were to file today on his anniversary but it is slightly delayed; we’ll file it in a week or ten days’ time, we’ll file it on the basis on the report that these documents were fabricated, we want full investigation into that, how the reports came to be fabricated, how they were granted entry in this computer, who did it, how the prosecution knew about it, and still carried on with the case, the prosecution, and with the arrest. So separate cases are being filed on that basis because we do not want this to be forgotten or forgiven. We want complete justice for Stan! 


The second aspect, quickly, as to the status of the other cases, of course the trial will take its own time to start, we don’t know when it will start. There are discharge applications pending after which there will be a charge framed and then the evidence will start, so it is anybody’s guess as it when it will start. As far as the bail applications are concerned, two bail applications have been heard by the SC around four months back and reserved for judgment. 


Other cases are pending on different stages. I am extremely hopeful right now that within the next six months to a year, most of the people should be out on bail, I am hopeful it will happen, and there are various other kinds of interventions that have been filed, including about statutory bail, electronic devices; different kind of applications have been filed which are pending to be heard. That’s the present status of the cases.


Tushar Kanti, Shoma Sen’s husband


I won’t speak about anything because I have repeatedly said so much about the arrest and the pain we are going through. But now I will read out Shoma’s note on the completion of the five years of her incarceration.


“As we enter the 6th year, the predominant  emotion over the last five years is, that of waiting. From waiting for default bail on the seventh month of our imprisonment, most of us still remain waiting. In jail, we sit there waiting for court dates, waiting for Mulakaat, waiting for the newspaper, waiting for the bail, and waiting for the Jail God called memo. In jail, our sense of time itself gets warped. When a lawyer tells a prisoner that she will get bail in one or two days, it may actually mean one or two years. 24 hours of clock time could mean 24 months of judicial time. So what keeps us going through these five years, apart from our own thoughts, beliefs, and ideals and each others company, was the courage and suffering of ordinary people with frugal means struggling who had been confined within these stone walls for an even longer period.  That gave us patience. it was  also the immense support we received from the national and international level, from the smallest to the biggest, to the massive farmers’ movement, that we found overwhelming. The continuous efforts of our devoted, efficient legal team and having brilliant legal luminaries appearing for us gave us tremendous hope. Family and friends coming from distant places to meet us in court, standing in long queues in the hot sun or pouring rain for fifteen minutes’ conversation with a glass panel separating us. The  family is going through all the troubles and disappointments, have also been very endearing. In this warped sense of time, everything that I left behind in June 2018 floats before my eyes like a vivid presence. But I know that by the time I come out, if I do at all, the world will be a very different place. While AI is penetrating all walks of life, we write with pens and paper. Stick postal stamps on envelopes. We live in the Stone Age without knives, scissors or needles. We read about the Russian Ukraine war waiting for newspapers. We read about  Climate change, and disasters, People’s agitation in France. India gearing up for elections, but still, we, of the Bhima Koregaon case, keep waiting. Hopefully, waiting. Thank you. From my heart, I remember Stan Swamy who has given us so much courage and strength even in his death, he has shown us an illuminating path, and I really believe that that path will one day illuminate the entire country and the world.”


Sagar Gonsalves, Vernon Gonsalves’ son


Before I begin, I want to thank PUCL and its heartening to see everyone here despite this being a long meeting.


(Sagar read out Vernon Gonsalves’ article, published on Scroll –


I think this [piece by Vernon] was very evocative, and I took great optimism from their positive thinking. It’s easy to give up hope, it’s a very desolate and hopeless situation sometimes; and I take strength in the fact that they choose to sing songs of hope and optimism even in the most oppressive and repressive situations, and that is something that all of us could learn a lot from.


Another thing I want to talk about, is how this piece describes Father Stan; when we entered prison, he was very optimistic and his spirit was very strong. He didn’t die overnight, it took ten whole months for that spirit of his to break, and it broke in front of their eyes.  We must continue to fight  to  increase accountability at every level. First of all, that he was even brought into prison, even after it, he had hopes in the judicial system but each rejection that came in broke him. When he came in, he had this indomitable spirit but it ultimately was the system that broke his spirit and led to his death. Even though he was so frail, he still had the optimism to sing these songs. He gave courage to others. But then, the NIA refused to grant him bail, the courts weren’t supporting him. The system broke Father Stan, and it’s on us now, to demand accountability. It’s been two years and still there’s no sense of accountability for him. He spent all his life fighting for the justice of others, and I think we should ensure that Justice happens in his name. And also, to remember everyone else who is still inside and in a very precarious situation, and we have to ensure that another Father Stan doesn’t take place, and we don’t have to commemorate such grim anniversaries in the future. Thank you.


Jenny, Hany Babu’s Wife


I remember this day (July 5) 2 years ago. At that time Babu was in the hospital and I was also with him. He had contracted a very serious eye infection, which the jail authorities neglected –  just like they did with Father Stan Swamy. So, it became really serious and he had to be in the hospital for 3 months. 


When I was with him, we got the news that Father Stan passed away. Babu burst out crying. He had said he wanted to introduce me to Father Stan. He had become friends with him, and used to keep saying – You will never see such an upright person; You will never see such a clear person.


I remember when the newspapers called me for a quote, I was unable to say anything. This tragedy took place all because of this false case slapped on the intellectuals of the country, who have raised their voice on public issues. They have all been active just like Father Stan Swamy. The main reason is the existence of the UAPA. So, I request all of you present here to raise your voice against UAPA. That is what is making this incarceration possible and putting away people for so many years. So many of these individuals have been jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case for 5 years. My husband has been in jail for 3 years. As Sagar was saying, we should not repeat this. We do not want to see another Stan Swamy lost. Many of these people are ailing, and there are no facilities. There are no emergency facilities, and there are no guards to even take them to the hospital. This is criminal negligence, as Rona and others have been writing. No one has been punished for Father Stan’s death. Who is responsible for it? Who will be punished?


Innocent people, people who have stood for public causes and people who have worked for the public good – they are the ones who are being needlessly punished like this. So we have to raise our voices against this kind of injustice, not just because they are suffering, but because it is a huge loss for society, that so many brilliant minds have been locked away. While they are trying to lead full lives in jail, reading, writing and singing, they are being punished and kept away from all of us. 


We need to raise our voice very seriously against UAPA, which is a draconian and inhuman law. We should raise this issue in international platforms also, and ensure that our friends and other political prisoners who are growing in number, are released. Thank you.