More striking — and more telling of the attitude of the authorities — was a much shorter document, running to about a page and half, released to the press on Nov. 29. It was issued weeks after Father Swamy’s lawyers went to court asking that he be provided with the inexpensive objects he needs at mealtimes. “When Stan was arrested, one of his associates handed over his clothes and the sipper to the N.I.A. officials,” said Mihir Desai, one of his lawyers.
But then, about a month after his arrest, the lawyers learnt that Father Swamy hadn’t been reunited with his straw and sipper. Reliant on his increasingly unstable hands, he was struggling.
The lawyers went to court on Nov. 6, asking that the priest be given what he needs.
The N.I.A. took 20 days to respond, a delay that the agency attributed to legal procedure. It also denied keeping Father Swamy’s straw and sipper. Agents had “conducted his personal search in presence of independent witnesses and no such straw and sipper were found.”
Yet in the intervening period, nobody thought to provide Father Swamy with any old straw and sipper. “He didn’t have any favorite sipper. He just needed to be given a sipper. It can’t take weeks,” Mr. Desai told me.
The N.I.A.’s explanation? In a nutshell: not our problem. After being arrested by its agents, Father Swamy had been handed over to prison authorities in Mumbai. The matter was thus “between him and the jail authorities,” the agency said.
Father Swamy, who remains in prison as the N.I.A. continues its investigation in the case, did eventually get a straw and a sipper at the end of November after a court directed the authorities.
Soon after, an Indian news agency quoted an unnamed jail official: “We know he is a patient, he suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Why would we not provide him things which he requires?” Yes, why?
Nikhil Kumar, a former bureau chief in South Asia for Time and CNN, is a writer in New Delhi.
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