"Devastating...": EU, UN Human Rights Reps On Stan Swamy's Death

Jharkhand and Kerala Chief Ministers Hemant Soren and Pinarayi Vijayan posted messages of tribute, as did Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

'Devastating...': EU, UN Human Rights Reps On Stan Swamy's Death

Father Stan Swamy spent over five decades working with tribal communities in Jharkhand (File)

New Delhi:

The death of Father Stan Swamy - the 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist arrested and jailed last year under draconian anti-terror law UAPA in connection with the Elgar Parishad case - has triggered a flood of messages on social media from political leaders, intellectuals and other activists.

Among those to have spoken out are Eamon Gilmore, the European Union's Special Representative for Human Rights, and Mary Lawlor, a United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders.

"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," Ms Lawlor tweeted.

She attached a link to a YouTube video in which Stan Swamy explains his work.

The video was shot before teams from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) swooped down on his home in Jharkhand's Ranchi in October last year, in a late-night op that was massively criticised.

Mr Gilmore re-tweeted Ms Lawlor's post and said: "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."

In January, the United Nation's Human Rights office in Switzerland expressed serious concern over the condition of Stan Swamy and other human rights activists in India.

The UN did not name Stan Swamy or others accused in the Elgar Parishad case, including 81-year-old poet-activist Varavara Rao, who was released on bail in March after spending two years in jail.

It did, however, say: "We continue to be concerned about the situation of activists detained in India, including in the context of the Bhima Koregaon events", and urged the government to release "some of the detainees (who) are elderly and in poor health" as they await trial.

At the time Ms Lawlor tweeted extracts from a November 2020 letter to the government, which spoke about the "alleged arbitrary detention of human rights defender Stan Swamy".

Within the country, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan have posted messages of tribute and condolences, as have Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Shashi Tharoor, and intellectuals and artists like TM Krishna.

Mr Soren, in whose state Stan Swamy worked with tribal communities for over five decades, held the centre responsible for the Father's death, saying: "The Union Government should be answerable for absolute apathy & non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death."

The Elgar Parishad case relates to an event on December 31, 2017, at Koregaon-Bhima near Pune, which was followed by violence and arson that left one person dead.

Investigators claim activists at the event made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements.

Stan Swamy was arrested from his home in Ranchi by a team of NIA officials from Delhi. Several other prominent activists were also arrested, and have been jailed for over two years as they await a trial.

Stan Swamy, who had many health problems including Parkinson's, was the oldest to be arrested.