"He Deserved Justice...": Rahul Gandhi Joins Tribute For Father Stan Swamy

Elgar Parishad Case: Stan Swamy had repeatedly complained of inadequate health facilities at the Taloja prison near Mumbai, where he was jailed to await his trial

'He Deserved Justice...': Rahul Gandhi Joins Tribute For Father Stan Swamy

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

New Delhi:

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan, and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were among hundreds of politicians, journalists and intellectuals to mourn the death of Stan Swamy - the 84-year-old activist arrested, charged under anti-terror law UAPA and imprisoned since October in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

Widely seen as an icon fighting for the rights of Jharkhand's tribal communities, Stan Swamy had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease before being jailed, and contracted COVID-19 while in prison.

Over the last few months he approached the court repeatedly to flag poor health facilities and neglect by prison officials in ensuring basic medical aid, tests and hygiene for both himself and other accused.

He also flagged lax social distancing norms during the Covid pandemic.

Last week, Stan Swamy filed a fresh medical bail plea in the Bombay High Court challenging the stringent conditions for bail to an accused charged under UAPA.

When the hearing started today, his lawyer told the High Court the activist had died at 1.30 pm.

In May, Stan Swamy told the Bombay High Court his health had declined consistently since being jailed, and said that if the current situation continued, he "would die soon".

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

"Deeply saddened by the passing of Fr. Stan Swamy. Unjustifiable that a man who fought all through his life for our society's most downtrodden, had to die in custody. Such travesty of justice should have no place in our democracy. Heartfelt condolences!" Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

"Heartfelt condolences on the passing of Father Stan Swamy. He deserved justice and humaneness," Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, tweeted: "A humble tribute to Father Stan Swamy. How unfortunate that a person who served the poor and tribals throughout his life and became the voice of human rights, he was denied justice and human rights even in the hour of death."

"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," Jairam Ramesh said.

"Deeply pained & 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," CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said.

"This is nothing less than murder by the State of one of the gentlest & kindest men I have known. Unfortunately our judicial system is also complicit in this," lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan said.

"Father Stan Swamy, we as a country killed you. My head hangs in shame. Rest in peace Father, hero, champion of human rights," journalist Rana Ayyub tweeted.

"84-year-old Jesuit Father #StanSwamy has passed away. Let us not talk about this as mere death. This is a judicial murder--and everyone is complicit: NIA, Modi- Shah, the judiciary that never saw the nonsense-upon-stilts which was Bhima Koregaon case, jails, ruling class & media," Meena Kandasamy, a columnist with The New York Times and the Guardian, said.

"Just heard that Father Stan Swamy passed away. The Indian Government and our insensitive Judiciary are responsible for all that he went through towards the end of his life," award-winning Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna tweeted.

"The last I read about the octogenarian activist, the late Stan Swamy which made me tear up, was that he'd requested for a straw/sipper as he was unable to drink water due to Parkinson's. And his request was denied! What a shame! What a shame!" actress Richa Chadha said.

Stan Swamy, who worked with tribal communities in Jharkhand for over five decades, was charged by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) with links to Naxals, especially the banned CPI (Maoists).

Last month, the NIA opposed his bail request; they said there was no "conclusive proof" of his ailments. The agency alleged Stan Swamy was a Maoist who plotted to cause unrest in the country.

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 that activists at the event made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements that led to the violence.

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.