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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Father Stan Swamy dies in custody: Centre answerable, will raise death in House, says Opp

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the Union government should be answerable for “absolute apathy” and non provision of timely medical services leading to the death.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 6, 2021 6:05:36 am
Activists in Ranchi protest after Stan Swamy’s death. (Photo: PTI)

The Congress and other Opposition parties Monday called for accountability after Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case, died in custody at the age of 84 in Mumbai. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the Union government should be answerable for “absolute apathy” and non provision of timely medical services leading to the death.

The CPM said those responsible for foisting false cases on him, his continued detention and inhuman treatment cannot escape accountability. “It is incumbent that all those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case and other detenues under politically motivated cases, misusing draconian laws like UAPA, sedition etc, be released forthwith,” the party said.

While former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said he “deserved justice and humaneness,” senior party leader Jairam Ramesh accused the Indian state of having killed Stan. “Who in the apparatus of the Indian state will be held responsible for this tragedy? Make no mistake — it is the Indian state that killed Fr Stan Swamy, who was such a passionate crusader for social justice,” he said.

“Shocked to learn about the demise of Father Stan Swamy. He dedicated his life working for tribal rights. I had strongly opposed his arrest & incarceration. The Union Government should be answerable for absolute apathy & non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death,” Soren said.

DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin said the “suffering” the activist endured should not befall anyone else.

DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran said his party will raise 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.”

DMK MP Kanimozhi tweeted, “Stan Swami (84) who suffered from Parkinson’s was arrested by the BJP government as Anti-national. His health conditions were never considered. He slipped into coma and passed away. Warriors are not buried, they are sown.”

In a statement, the CPM Politburo said Father Stan was denied treatment for his various ailments, including Parkinson’s. “It needs to be underlined that it is only after a campaign was conducted by various human rights and disability rights organisations that even a sipper to drink liquids was made available to him in jail. The numerous appeals made to shift him out of the overcrowded Taloja jail that had seen a huge rise in Covid cases went unheeded. His appeals for bail and being sent home were rejected. Thanks to the Bombay High Court’s intervention he was admitted to a private hospital when his condition started deteriorating after he was infected with Covid. But it was too late to prevent his death in custody.”

The CPM’s Tamil Nadu state committee on Monday announced that it would hold state-wide demonstrations on July 8.

“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,” party general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted.

The CPI, in a statement, alleged that Swamy was denied medical treatment and demanded that those responsible for his death be arrested. “The party demands the arrest of all those responsible for his death and proper punishment for the inhuman treatment meted out to him. The people at large take his death as institutional murder. The 84-year-old Jesuit priest from Jharkhand was actively mobilising tribals in the area and fighting for their welfare.”

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said such “travesty of justice should have no place in our democracy”.

Apart from Vijayan, Kerala Minister K Rajan, Assembly Speaker M B Rajesh, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and former leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala were among those who condoled the death.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “A ruthless & callous government that deprived him of dignity even while he was alive has blood on its hands. Absolutely shocked & appalled. May his soul rest in peace.”

‘Inexcusable’: UN, EU human rights representatives speak out

New Delhi: Father Stan Swamy’s death triggered criticism from human rights representatives within the United Nations and the European Union.

“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,” tweeted Mary Lawlor, a UN Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders.

Eamon Gilmore, the EU’s Special Representative for Human Rights, re-tweeted Lawlor’s post. “India: 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,” he wrote. —ENS

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