Original article here.
Indian diasporic and human rights groups say the death of a Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy in an Indian jail is the direct result of the inhumanity of a regime that filed a false case against him.
In a statement signed by 36 organisations worldwide, the Indian diasporic and human rights groups have condemned the Indian government for its “inhumane” treatment of a jailed tribal rights activist Stan Swamy who died at the age of 84. The Jesuit priest, who had Parkinson’s disease, was the oldest to be accused of terrorism in India.
Father Stan Swamy was one of the 16 activists, academics, and lawyers charged under an anti-terror law in the ‘Bhima Koregaon case.
According to a statement issued on 7 July by Hindus for Human Rights, USA and signed by 35 allies, the groups have condemned the government of India in no uncertain terms for “persecution of Father Stan, denying him dignity and care, and hounding him to his death.” “Amongst the signatories include Ambedkar International Center, USA; Coalition Against Fascism in India, USA; Americans For Kashmir, USA; Amnesty International USA; Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians, New Zealand; The Humanism Project, Australia; Progressive India Collective, USA; Indian American Muslim Council, USA, and the Indian Farmers and Workers Support Group, Vancouver, Canada, amongst others.
“It is the direct result of the draconian law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and the inhumane treatment meted out to prisoners during a global pandemic. And in this, Fr. Stan is not alone: there are many other political prisoners held under false pretences under the same draconian law, who are all still at risk of death, including fourteen of the Bhima-Koregaon 16,” said the human rights groups from the US, Europe and Australia.
Swamy was arrested in October 2020 from Ranchi. He spent eight months in a Mumbai prison, awaiting trial. He had severe health problems, including Parkinson’s disease, and his health deteriorated rapidly in the jail. He had requested a sipper and straw last year, for he could not hold the glass to drink water. Though, authorities took almost two months to provide these essential things.
The activists say Father Swamy’s death was not unforeseen.
“over and over again, the authorities persecuted Father Stan and the other arrestees; over and over again, the authorities were warned that, especially after the outbreak of the pandemic, death would result if they did not release them. Far from heeding these warnings, the Central government took extraordinary measures to subvert a review of this baseless case by the Government of Maharashtra, which may have resulted in its dismissal, and transferred the Bhima-Koregaon case to the NIA.”
Many countries and international bodies have expressed sadness over the death of Father Swamy. From to UN Human Rights Commissioner to the human rights officials of the US and European Union have spoken, with some of them even saying that he had been imprisoned on “false” terrorism charges.
The UN high commissioner for human rights and other United Nations independent experts had repeatedly raised the cases of Swamy and 15 other human rights defenders associated with the Bhima Koregaon case with the Indian government over the past three years and sought their release from pre-trial detention, Bachelet’s spokesperson for Liz Throssell said.
“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,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Indian government says that the Jesuit priest’s arrest and the subsequent rejection of his bail appeals were “strictly in accordance with the law”.
In an official statement, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Father Stan Swamy was arrested and detained by the National Investigation Agency following due process under law and that his bail applications were rejected by the courts because of the “specific nature of charges” against Swamy.
“In one voice, we in the Indian diaspora, as well as allied groups, condemn the regime that persecuted Father Stan, denied him dignity and care, and hounded him to his death,” the Indian diasporic groups have said.
“We will not stop until this injustice is at an end,” reads the statement.