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Father Stan Swamy’s death an ‘institutional murder’, say families of accused in Elgar Parishad case

“While we grieve at the passing away of Father Stan Swamy, we unequivocally hold the negligent jails, the indifferent courts, and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death,” the statement said.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: July 6, 2021 10:21:23 am
In this Aug 28, 2018 file photo, civil rights activist Father Stan Swamy (PTI)

A statemeny by family members and friends of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case has called the death of Father Stan Swamy “an institutional murder” and said that they fear the health and lives of others lodged in jail.

The 84-year old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, who was arrested in the case on October 8, died on Monday in a private hospital where he was shifted on directions of the Bombay High Court in May after his health began deteriorating.

The statement said that Swamy’s arrest and subsequent detention in Taloja Central jail in Navi Mumbai was “already a death sentence pronounced against him”.

“We, the friends and family members of those accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case are deeply pained and shaken to the core by the loss of Father Stan Swamy. This is not a natural death, but the institutional murder of a gentle soul, committed by an inhuman state. Having spent his life amongst the Adivasis in Jharkhand, fighting for their right to resources and lands, Father Stan did not deserve to die in this manner, far from his beloved Jharkhand, falsely imprisoned by a vindictive state,” the statement says.

A hoarding outside the St. Peter Church in Mumbai

The statement adds that while Swamy was the last to be arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), he was also the “eldest and frailest” among them. “Despite his feeble health, he inspired everyone with the strength of his character and his unshakable integrity. Even as his health degraded in the prison, his thoughts and prayers were always with his co-prisoners. In his letters, he wrote about his other prison mates who were also falsely fabricated in different cases and agonised over the prevailing injustices in society,” the statement added. It added that his medical bail plea was turned down by the special court and though he was infected with Covid-19 in jail, it was only detected after he was moved to the hospital following orders of the High Court.

Swamy, during his last appearance before the High Court on May 21 through video conference from Taloja jail, had said that he did not want to be admitted to any hospital but wanted to be among his own in Ranchi. The statement said that his request could not be met by the judicial system.

Outside Holy Family Hospital. (Express Photo)

“While we grieve at the passing away of Father Stan Swamy, we unequivocally hold the negligent jails, the indifferent courts, and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death,” the statement said.

While 82-year old poet Varavara Rao is out on temporary bail for six months and Delhi University professor, Hany Babu is also admitted to a private hospital after he suffered an acute eye infection in jail, others including former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow, Mahesh Raut, academic Anand Teltumbde, lawyers Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bharadwaj, former professor Shoma Sen, cultural group Kabir Kala Manch members Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Rona Wilson and Gautam Navlakha are in jail.

Father Frazer Mascarenhas outside Holy Family Hospital. (Express Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

Memorial Mass for Father Stan Swamy

A memorial mass will be held for Father Stan Swamy at Saint Peters Church on Tuesday evening. The Bombay High Court on Monday had directed for his body to be handed over to Father Frazer Mascarenhas, the former principal of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and the Parish Priest of the Church. Since Swamy’s death was in judicial custody, the court had also directed for the inquest panchnama and post-mortem to be conducted at Cooper Hospital before handing over his body for a funeral abiding with restrictions placed due to Covid-19.

A statement put on by Father Mascarenhas said that only 20 people are allowed for the mass. “The list is already filled with Priests of Society of Jesus. Hence, everyone is requested to view the mass online on Saint Peters Church YouTube channel,” the statement says. It adds that since Covid-19 protocols are in place, no one will be allowed entry.

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