Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Father Stan Swamy dies at 84

Father Stan Swamy, renowned tribal rights activist and human rights defender who was arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case last year under draconian UAPA, died on Monday.

The 84-year-old Jesuit priest
was put on ventilator after his health deteriorated further early Sunday.

He was admitted to a private hospital since May 30 following the directions of the Bombay High Court.

On Saturday, his lawyer, Mihir Desai, had informed the High Court, which is hearing Swamy’s bail pleas, that the latter continued to be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Swamy’s health condition deteriorated and he has been put on a ventilator.

The bench, comprising Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar, expressed shock over the news and said it was at a loss of words and hoped Swamy’s soul would rest in peace.

The Jesuit Provincial of India expressed grief over Swamy’s death. In a statement, it said the priest had worked all his life for the “Adivasis, Dalits, and marginalised communities so that the poor may have life with dignity and honour”.

After the death of Father Stan Swamy, Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter.

Desai, who has been representing Swamy since his arrest, told the court that he does not have any complaint against Holy Family Hospital or the high court, but held the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Taloja central prison responsible for Swamy’s death.

Stan Swamy was being treated at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai, following a court order on May 28. 84 year old Swamy was denied medical care for over ten days before he was finally moved to Holy Family Hospital on May 30. During those 10, days, Swamy had complained of fever and weakness.

According to Desai, Taloja central prison, which lacks proper medical facilities, failed to provide adequate medical treatment to the elderly activist and his health had deteriorated by the time he was moved out to a hospital. Swamy was put on a ventilator support and was unconscious ever since.

According to Live Law, soon after the Holy Family Hospital informed the court about Swamy’s death, Desai asked that a post mortem to be conducted on Swamy’s body and all guidelines laid down by the National Human Rights Commission in the case of a custodial death be followed. The court agreed.

The renowned human rights defender Swamy, an Indian Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order, and a tribals rights activist for several decades, was arrested in October last year, was sent to judicial custody immediately and since has been in Taloja prison.

Swamy was the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India.

There have been widespread protests across India with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), All India Catholic Union, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KCBC), Kerala Latin Catholic Association (KLCA), Kerala Jesuit Provincial, Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), and the international Jesuit community, calling for his release.

In a protest on 21 October 2020, leaders of opposition political parties such as Shashi Tharoor, Sitaram Yechury, D. Raja, Supriya Sule and Kanimozhi along with economist Jean Dreze, Dr Joseph Marianus Kujur, the director of the Ranchi-based Xavier Institute of Social Sciences, activists Dayamani Barla and Rupali Jadhav, and lawyer Mihir Desai called for Stan’s release.

The arrest has been termed as politically motivated due to his work among the Adivasi community.

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