Activists, opposition call out 'custodial murder' of Stan Swamy
The death of the 84-year-old activist Stan Swamy on Monday amid his fight for bail on the grounds of health issues sparked off intense responses on social media from political leaders, activists, journalists, intellectuals among others. Stan Swamy, the Jesuit priest who was arrested last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, died after suffering a cardiac arrest on Monday.
Opposition parties and other leaders called out the "inhuman treatment" meted out to the activist after being arrested on charges of an anti-terror law. The octogenarian had been on ventilator support since Sunday, when his health conditions worsened and was being treated at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai following the court order of May 28.
Rights activist Shabnam Hashmi called Stan Swamy's death "custodial murder" and said that the government has to be held accountable. "#StanSwamy passes away. Fr. Stan Swamy passes away as undertrial in state custody under fake charges under UAPA, NIA, sedition. This is not death, this is custodial murder. Government has to be held accountable," she tweeted.
RTI activist and anti-graft crusader Anjali Bhardwaj also expressed the anguish in the same vein and called it an "institutional murder". "With UAPA, the process is the punishment. The death of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy should be recognised for what it is - institutional murder. RIP Father Stan," Bhardwaj posted on Twitter.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor and Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren also tweeted about Stan Swamy's death and demanded justice for the inhuman treatment against him. DMK lawmaker Dayanidhi Maran also said that they will be raising the issue in Parliament. "This is a sad state of Indian politics. We are going to raise this issue in Parliament to voice out that you cannot squeeze or mute the dissident voices of people. This is a democracy," ANI quoted the MP as saying.
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Condemning Stan Swamy's arrest and treatment under the UAPA, the CPI (M) demanded immediate release of all those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case and other detainees under “politically motivated” cases, misusing laws like UAPA, sedition, among others. "Deeply pained and outraged at the death of Father Stan Swamy. A Jesuit priest & social activist he tirelessly helped the marginalised. Draconian UAPA custody, inhuman treatment since October 2020 with no charge established. Accountability must be fixed for this murder in custody," CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted.
Eamon Gilmore, the European Union's Special Representative for Human Rights, and Mary Lawlor, a United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders, also expressed their grief over the news of the death of the tribal rights activist, who was possibly the oldest political prisoner in the country.
"The news from India today is devastating. Human Rights Defender and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy has died in custody, nine months after his arrest on false charges of terrorism. Jailing HRDs is inexcusable," Lawlor tweeted.
"I am very saddened to hear that Father Stan Swamy has passed away. A defender of indigenous peoples' rights. He was held in detention for the past 9 months. The EU had been raising his case repeatedly with authorities," Gilmore said, quoting Lawlor's tweet.
The Elgar Parishad case is related to the alleged inflammatory speeches by some activists at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017. The police claimed that the speeches triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of Maharashtra city.
Swamy was waiting for interim bail in the case on the grounds of medical issues, had many health problems, one of which was Parkinson's.