Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy was from Jharkhand. He has worked in the state for over three decades on various issues of the Adivasi communities on land, forest and labour rights. This includes questioning the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which stipulated setting up of a Tribes Advisory Council with members solely of the Adivasi community for their protection, well-being and development in the state.
The threat to BJP is not congress or AAP but it’s the Left. Left ideology is opposite to BJP and it wants to make sure the Left is completely wiped out. So, every left leader is today languishing in jail no different than what the British did to freedom fighters and maybe much worse. Swamy is the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India. Swamy was implicated in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence, while he claims that he was not in Pune during the said period.
It was alleged that the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) founded by him and Sudha Bharadwaj, to fight for the release of around 3,000 men and women who had been labelled as Maoists and imprisoned was a front for Maoist fundraising. The Jesuits have denied the allegation of Stan Swamy being a Maoist, by stating that it was against the ethos of the Jesuit order. He was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on 8 October 2020, from Bagaicha, a Jesuit social action centre and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 under which bail can be denied.
The case was initially investigated by the Pune Police but later handed over to the NIA. He was earlier arrested in June 2018 in Ranchi on similar accusations. There have been widespread protests across India with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), All India Catholic Union, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KCBC), Kerala Latin Catholic Association (KLCA), Kerala Jesuit Provincial, Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), and the international Jesuit community, calling for his release.
The Ranchi Catholic Church too released a statement saying it was “distressed and troubled” at the way he was arrested. The arrests have been termed as politically motivated due to his work among the Adivasi community, the release of undertrials, and the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee. Among others. Leaders of other minority religions have also protested his arrest. In a protest on 21 October 2020, leaders of opposition political parties such as Shashi Tharoor, Sitaram Yechury, D. Raja, Supriya Sule and Kanimozhi along with economist Jean Dreze, Dr Joseph Marianus Kujur, the director of the Ranchi-based Xavier Institute of Social Sciences, activists Dayamani Barla and Rupali Jadhav, and lawyer Mihir Desai called for Stan’s release.
The interim bail on medical grounds was rejected by the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on 23 October 2020. On 6 November 2020, Swamy submitted an application to the special court requesting a straw and sipper as he was unable to hold a glass due to Parkinson’s disease. The NIA requested 20 days to respond to the application. On 26 November 2020, the NIA responded that they did not have Swamy’s straw-sipper. Swamy also filed for bail the second time on the grounds that he is 83 years old and suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Stan Swamy suffers from Parkinson’s disease apart from other age-related morbidities. He has fallen multiple times while in prison. He suffers from hearing loss in both ears and has undergone surgeries.
The Court adjourned the next hearing to 4 December 2020 while directing the jail authorities to respond to his request for straw-sipper and warm winter clothes. Around 50 days after being arrested and amidst public outrage from citizens, the Taloja jail authorities provided Swamy with a sipper. Activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira are also lodged at Taloja prison along with Stan Swamy. On 28 May 2021, the Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government to admit Swamy to a private hospital for 15 days, considering his rapidly deteriorating health, preferably the same day of the order. He was admitted to the Holy Family Hospital, Bandra.
On 18 May 2021, in a note submitted to the Bombay HC, it was reported that Swamy was gravely ill in prison. The Court ordered for the formation of an expert committee to examine Swamy. While appearing before the Court over video conferencing on 21 May 2021, Swamy refused to be admitted to either JJ hospital or any other hospital and requested only interim bail so that he could go to his home in Ranchi, citing his rapidly deteriorating health. Meanwhile, Swamy tested positive for Covid-19. And finally, On 4 July 2021, Swamy was put on ventilator support as his health deteriorated until he died.
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