Resolution seeking independent probe into Father Stan Swamy's death introduced in US Congress

Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Jharkhand in October 2020 under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.
Illustration of Father Stan Swamy
Illustration of Father Stan Swamy

NEW YORK: A resolution commemorating the life of Indian human rights defender Father Stan Swamy and seeking an independent investigation into the death of the Jesuit priest has been introduced in the US Congress, Congressman Juan Vargas has said.

Vargas, the Representative from the US state of California, announced that he recently introduced the resolution in Congress to commemorate Swamy "and to encourage an independent investigation" into his death.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Representatives Andre Carson and James McGovern, has been introduced in the US House of Representatives and coincides with the first anniversary of 84-year-old Swamy's death in police custody.

Vargas, a Democratic Party Congressman, spoke at a webinar titled 'Persecution of Religious Minorities and their Defenders in India: Commemorating Father Stan's Death in Custody' on Tuesday. UK MP Neale Hanvey, MEP Alviina Alametsa (EU), Senator David Shoebridge (Australia), and UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor addressed the event.

The webinar was co-organised by Front Line Defenders, Hindus for Human Rights, the Humanism Project, India Civil Watch International, and Survival International, and co-sponsored by Adivasi Lives Matter, Dalit Solidarity Forum, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), and the Indian American Muslim Council, a joint press release said.

The panelists noted Swamy's extensive service fighting for the rights of Adivasi people, it added. "I am appalled by the abuse Father Stan faced while in custody. No one who fights for human rights should face such violence and neglect," said Vargas.

Swamy died at a Mumbai hospital, where he was admitted on May 29 last year, a day after he suffered a cardiac arrest and was put on ventilator support. He suffered from Parkinson's disease and several other ailments.

Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Ranchi, Jharkhand 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 Elgar Parishad case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made by some activists at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017.

India rejected international criticism over the death of Swamy last year, saying the due process of law was followed in his case and that the authorities act against violations of law and do not restrain the legitimate exercise of rights.

"Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in July last year in response to media queries relating to reactions over the demise of Swamy.

In view of Father Swamy's ailing health, the Bombay High Court had allowed his medical treatment at a private hospital where he was receiving all possible medical attention since May 28, Bagchi said.

"India's democratic and constitutional polity is complemented by an independent judiciary, a range of national and state-level human rights commissions that monitor violations, a free media and a vibrant and vocal civil society," Bagchi said.

"India remains committed to promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens," he added. Earlier, the UN body on human rights had said it was "deeply saddened and disturbed" by the death of the activist in pre-trial detention.

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The New Indian Express