Stan Swamy dies at 84: Who was the tribal rights activist arrested in Elgar Parishad case?

Stan Swamy: The Bombay HC was informed that Swamy suffered a cardiac arrest early Sunday morning following which he was put on ventilator support

FP Staff July 05, 2021 16:05:23 IST
Stan Swamy dies at 84: Who was the tribal rights activist arrested in Elgar Parishad case?

File photo of Stan Swamy. Image Courtesy: 101Reporters/Manmohan Singh

Father Stan Swamy, a tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case last year, died on Monday, his counsel informed the Bombay High Court when the court took up his bail plea.

The 84-year-old's lawyers had moved the Bombay High Court on Monday morning, seeking an urgent hearing on his medical bail plea after the Jesuit priest was put on ventilator after his health deteriorated early Sunday.

Swamy, 84, died at 1.30 pm on Monday, Dr Ian D'Souza, director of the Holy Family Hospital in suburban Bandra, told the Bombay High Court's division bench of justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar.

D'Souza told the court that Swamy suffered a cardiac arrest early Sunday morning following which he was put on ventilator support. He (Swamy) did not recover and passed away this afternoon, the official told the court.

The cause of the death is a pulmonary infection, Parkinson's disease and post COVID-19 complications, he said.

Swamy's counsel Mihir Desai said there was negligence on part of the Taloja prison authorities, who failed to provide immediate medical attention to the Jesuit priest.

What was Swamy accused of?

Swamy was arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, which relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on 31 December 2017.

  • According to authorities, a case was registered vide FIR No. 04/2018 dated 08.01.2018 at PS Vishrambaug, Pune, Maharashtra regarding inciting people and giving provocative speeches during Elgar Parishad organized by activists of Kabir Kala Manch on 31.12.2017 at Shanivarwada, Pune, which promoted enmity between the caste groups and led to violence resulting in loss of life and property.

The Pune Police claimed the speeches triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon- Bhima war memorial and that the conclave was backed by Maoists. Later, the case was taken over by the NIA. Several other activists including Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao were arrested in the case.

Swamy had helped the cause of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) through various civil rights organisations he worked with and actively involved furthering its activities, as per the NIA. He was found to be in communication with CPI (Maoist) cadre, according to authorities.

Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on 8 October, 2020, and had been in jail since then.

Officials said all necessary medical formalities after arrest were complied with during the period from his arrest to production before the Ld Special Court. They say utmost in the background of his age, no police custody was obtained by NIA during investigation as sufficient evidences were already on record.

Swamy was produced before the NIA Special Court Mumbai along with other accused on 9 October, 2020, and a supplementary charge sheet was filed against him in the said case under under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including sections 121 (waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against Government of India), 121A, 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, etc), 134, 505 (statements conducing public mischief) and 120B (criminal conspiracy), and sections 13,16,18,20,38 & 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

Ld Court had sent him on judicial custody to Central Jail, Taloja, Mumbai.

So who was Swamy and what kind of work did he do?

  • Swamy, who was one of the oldest person to be charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was a Jesuit priest and a tribal rights activist based in Jharkhand.
  • He had worked in the state for over three decades on various issues of the Adivasi communities on land, forest and labour rights.
  • Swamy is also the founder of Bagaicha, an organisation dedicated to uplift Adivasis. According to media reports, Swamy led from the forefront on the idea of conducting research on Naxalite undertrials in Jharkhand.
  • Two days before NIA took him into custody in connection to the Bhim Koregaon case, Swamy in a video message said that he had challenged the “indiscriminate” arrest of thousands of young Adivasis and moolvasis with investigating agencies labeling them as “Naxals".
  • Suffering from Parkinson's disease and bilateral hearing loss, Swamy was languishing in jail since October 2020. Swamy was arrested from his home in Ranchi in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune in January 2018.
  • The activist stated that he was being falsely implicated by Central agencies and had told the NIA on at least four occasions during his interrogation that fake evidence had been planted on his computer, according to reports. He also, according to media reports, struggled to procure a straw and a sipper – both of which had been seized from him during his incarceration. However, officials said Swamy, during his judicial custody, was kept in a separate cell of prison hospital with all necessary precautions and two attendants as per advice of medical officer of Taloja Central Prison. They added that he was provided with all facilities including wheel chair, walker, walking stick, straws, sipper, mug, commode chair, battery cells for his hearing machines, dental treatment, visiting psychiatrist and telemedicine.
  • In March, the special NIA court, refusing Swamy bail, held that prima facie Swamy had hatched a "serious conspiracy" with members of a banned Maoist organisation to create unrest in the country and to overthrow the government.

Swamy's death came amid several prolonged efforts to secure his bail amid his deteriorating health.

Deteriorating health

  • Swamy had applied for bail in November last year both on medical grounds and on merits. He had said in his plea that he suffered from Parkinson's disease and had lost hearing in both his ears. Swamy had also argued that while in the Taloja prison, he had to be shifted to the prison hospital owing to his ill health.
  • In May, his health had deteriorated, leading to civil society groups urging the authorities to bring him immediate medical attention. Finally, on 30 May he was hospitalised on directions of the Bombay High Court.
  • He had tested positive for COVID-19 during hospitalisation.
  • On Sunday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the Maharashtra government in the wake of a complaint alleging the serious health condition of imprisoned 84-year-old.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date:

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