RANCHI: Father Stan Swamy, 84, who worked tirelessly for the rights of adivasis and other underprivileged people in Jharkhand for more than three decades, breathed his last at around 1:30 pm in Mumbai. The Bombay High Court learnt of the death from the 84-year-old's lawyer, in court to fight for bail on medical grounds for his client.
Father Stan had been languishing in jail since October 8 last year when the NIA had arrested him -- the country's oldest political prisoner -- in a case related to the violence that erupted at an event to mark 100 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle on January 1 in 2018, leaving one dead and several others injured.
People close to Swamy termed his death institutional murder, after he had been arrested on fake charges.
"This is an institutional murder as he was forcefully arrested and murdered after the leveling of fake charges. Despite the fact that no charges were proved against him, Father Stan was kept in jail for several months," said Aloka Kujoor, who was associated with the late priest for more than 20 years.
He was deliberately arrested with an intention to kill by keeping him in jail for so long, she added.
According to Kujoor, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a network of several people's organisations and activists, had been demanding the immediate release of the undertrial activist lodged at Taloja jail in Mumbai, citing Father Stan's old age, but no heed had been paid to their demands.
The JJM released a statement saying Father Stan has been a crusader for people's rights.
For decades, he was a voice of the oppressed in Jharkhand. He played a leading role in the formation and the functioning of the Mahasabha. His principles have been a source of inspiration for us and will continue to remain so. Stan lives on in our struggles and memories,” said the statement.
His death, according to JJM, was the result of murder by the state.
"We hold the NIA and the central government wholly responsible and strongly condemn their role in Stan’s death, which once again exposes the fascist face of the BJP government at the Centre," the statement said.
Replugging my piece with immense pain. Tribute to Stan Swamy: https://t.co/8aJQfYFgGA— Kaleeswaram Raj (@KaleeswaramR) July 5, 2021
As mentioned earlier, the Bombay High Court was due to hear Father Stan's bail application on Monday when he passed away. The late priest's lawyers had sought bail citing his poor health. It was Father Stan's counsel Mihir Desai who informed Justice SS Shinde and Justice NJ Jamadar of his client's passing away.
Father Stan and the other accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case had repeatedly complained of inadequate health facilities in Taloja Jail near Mumbai, where they had been kept during the trial.
After his health deteriorated at the jail, he was admitted to the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai on May 30 following the directions of the Bombay High Court.
On Sunday, his condition deteriorated further and he was put on a ventilator but he died at around 1:30 pm on Monday.
Father Stan had tested positive for COVID-19 on May 30. He suffered lower back pain and bilateral hearing loss among other ailments.
Stan Swamy talks of his life, learning from Adivasis, their exploitation and how he decided to work in Jharkhand.— Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (@JharkhandJanad1) October 16, 2020
This is the man being harassed and maligned by the central govt. Thread on videos of Stan, his life, beliefs and work. 1/n @meeracomposes @karwanemohabbat pic.twitter.com/NIhmcD4xyM
Father Stan was suffering from pulmonary infection, post COVID-19 complications in the lungs and pneumonia when he passed away. He also had Parkinson's disease.
Reactions on twitter:
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 Govt should be answerable for absolute apathy & non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death.— Hemant Soren (@HemantSorenJMM) July 5, 2021
Heartfelt condolences on the passing of Father Stan Swamy.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 5, 2021
He deserved justice and humaneness.
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!— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) July 5, 2021
India: I am very saddened to hear that Fr #StanSwamy 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. https://t.co/DNpNa1r8cq— Eamon Gilmore (@EamonGilmore) July 5, 2021