On Monday, 5 July, human rights activist Father Stan Swamy, who was incarcerated for his alleged involvement in the Elgar Parishad case, passed away as a pre-trial prisoner after suffering a cardiac arrest.
The death of the 84-year-old, who was awaiting bail on medical ground, invited tributes from political leaders and activists across the nation.
Congress leader Jesuits of India; Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi; Historian Ram Chandra Guha; Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren also took to Twitter to mourn Father Swamy's demise.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), too, acknowledged Swamy's passing in a press note on Tuesday, and said that they are "saddened and disturbed" by it.
"In light of the continued, severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more urgent that States, including India, release every person detained without a sufficient legal basis, including those detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views," Liz Throsell, spokesperson for the UNCHR wrote.
'A Death Foretold': Jesuits of India, Indian Catholic Association Anguished
The Jesuits of India, have expressed deep anguish at the demise of Father Stan Swamy, with Dr Stanislaus D’ Souza, the South Asia head of the group writing:
“On behalf of the Jesuits of India, especially the Jesuits of Jamshedpur Jesuit Province, I express my deepest condolences to the family members, friends, lawyers, well-wishers and all those who stood by Stan and prayed for him during this moment of trial and suffering."
“The Society of Jesuits, at this moment, recommits itself to take forward the legacy of Fr Stan in its mission of Justice and Reconciliation,” wrote Dr D’ Souza.
Meanwhile, the All India Catholic Association, has written in a press statement that "future generations will take courage from his martyrdom".
"His was a death foretold. It was clear that the State had, in cold blood, decided to wreak on him and others the full might of its vengeance for daring to speak for the poor and the deprived."
Reminding that "in jail, with his health failing and advanced Parkinson's he was denied basic human dignity and facilities including a simple water sipper as he could no longer hold a cup in his trembling hands," the association wrote:
"A man who could hardly move, he was systematically denied bail by various courts. Ironically, his last bail application came up for hearing in the afternoon of 5 July when the Director of the Holy Family Hospital gave a simple statement that Fr Stan had passed away."
Further, the association pointed out how even in jail, Father Swamy should resilience and wrote: "In life and in his martyrdom, Fr Stan Swamy has become a beacon for all who struggle for human rights, specially the rights of the Tribals and other marginalised people, and a role model for young men and women across the nation."
Politicians Mourn Fr Swamy's Demise
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to point out that Swamy "deserved justice and humaneness".
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also expressed her sorrow at his death, saying that he was deprived of justice and human rights even in the hour of death.
Leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury expressed his anguish and wrote about Swamy's circumstances in his last days: "Draconian UAPA, inhuman treatment since October 2020 with no charge established."
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren also expressed his shock at Swamy's passing and said that the Union government should be "answerable for absolute apathy...".
He also paid tribute to the activist through a video message on Tuesday.
"Who in the apparatus of the Indian state will be held responsible for this tragedy?" asked Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.
Former chief minister of Goa Digambar Kamat also expressed his condolences and wrote, "Feeling devastated by passing away of 84 year old Champion of Human Rights Father #StanSwamy. This is nothing less than Murder by most insensitive and inhuman Government of India of one of the gentlest and kindest person. My condolences to his family and followers. He deserved kindness. (sic)"
The state president of West Bengal, Trinankur Bhattacharjee, tweeted: "His death is a murder and we know who is responsible."
Activist, psephologist, and politician Yogendra Yadav also called Swamy's death a "cold blooded murder by NIA, NHRC, BJP & the judiciary".
Int'l Fig, Civil Society Groups Share Grief
Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, and EU Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Colombia also tweeted about Swamy's passing.
The National Confederation Of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) stated that Swamy, "incarcerated on fabricated charges", "was a commendable activist and had worked for Dalits, Adivasis, and others in the state of Jharkhand".
"The death of Fr Stan Swamy has to be seen in the context of the overall assault on justice-loving people by the Indian government. His death is an institutional murder, one that will not be forgotten. History will remember that when the most dedicated activists were languishing in jail on false charges and their health was deteriorating, the Indian government turned a blind eye. It is the deliberate attempt to implicate activists in false cases and the negligence that follows that make the death of Fr. Stan Swamy a murder by the Indian State."NCHRO
Other Prominent Figures Express Sorrow
Dr Kafeel Khan also took to Twitter to call his death a "murder".
Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, saying that Swamy's death was a "case of judicial murder".
Journalist Rana Ayub wrote "Rest in peace, Father, hero, champion of human rights".
Writer Meena Kandasamy, meanwhile, tweeted: 'Blood on all our hands'.
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