NEW DELHI: Terming activist Stan Swamy's death an "institutional murder", the family members and friends of the other accused arrested in the Elgar Parishad case said on Tuesday that they held the "negligent jails, indifferent courts and malicious investigating agencies" responsible for it.
In a statement, they said it was "unconscionable" that someone as old as Swamy and who was suffering poor health was put in jail amid a pandemic. They also said that they feared for the lives of their family members and colleagues in jails who were facing "similar injustices" in jails.
Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Ranchi in October 2020 under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in connection with the Elgar Parishad case and lodged at the Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai.
The 84-year-old died at the Holy Family Hospital, where he was admitted on May 29, in Mumbai on Monday, a day after he suffered a cardiac arrest and was put on ventilator support. The Elgar Parishad case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made by some activists at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017.
Police claim these speeches triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the city and that the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.
"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," the statement said.
"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. Even his COVID disease was not diagnosed in jail and could only be detected after he was moved to the hospital on orders of the (Bombay) high court," it said.
Swamy was the last of the 16 people to be arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. Suffering from Parkinson's disease, he was the oldest and the frailest among those arrested, the statement said. "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. We fear for the health and lives of our family members and colleagues, who are facing similar injustices in the same jails, under the same unaccountable system," it added.
The statement further said, "We continue our vigil for everyone's safety and security, and as Father Stan would appreciate, 'we refuse to be silent spectators and are ready to pay the price!'" Swamy had said he had never been to Bhima Koregaon.
NIA officials had said investigations established that he was actively involved in the activities of the CPI (Maoist). The agency also alleged that he was in contact with "conspirators" to further the group's activities. Others arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad case include some of India's most respected scholars, lawyers, academicians and activists.