Tribal rights activist Fr Stan Swamy
Tribal rights activist Fr Stan Swamy

On Monday, July 5, 84-year-old imprisoned activist Stan Swamy took his last breathe as he had been ailing for quite some time now, having tested positive for COVID-19 and had been critical in the ICU for some time. The activist, arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad-alleged Maoist links case was lodged in Navi Mumbai's Taloja jail. Swamy passed away at 1.30 pm on Monday. The Bombay High Court bench was informed about his death by Holy Family hospital's Dr Ian D'Souza. He had been shifted from jail following the HC's order on May 28 this year.

Who is Stan Swamy? All you need to know about the 84-year-old Jharkhand tribal rights activist and why was he sent to judicial custody

Father Stan Swamy is a Jesuit priest and has been advocating for the land, forest and labour rights of Jharkhand’s Adivasis for the past three decades. "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."

Besides, his work also involves opposition to the setting up of 'land banks', which he argues would free up land belonging to the community to set up small and big industries.

He was also a part of the Jharkhand Organisation against Uranium Radiation (JOAR), a campaign which was run against Uranium Corporation India Limited in 1996. Swamy has also been working for welfare and rights of displaced people of Bokaro, Santhal Parganas and Koderma.

Swamy and his co-accused have been charged by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) as being members of frontal organisations working on behalf of the banned CPI (Maoists). The case is related to inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

How Stan Swamy's health deteriorated in jail?

Stan Swamy, who was jailed in Mumbai, was being treated at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai following a court order on May 28. Last week, the acivist had filed a fresh plea for bail in the High Court, challenging the stringent conditions for bail to an accused charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)Act.

Stan Swamy and other accused in the case had repeatedly complained of inadequate health facilities in the Taloja prison where they had been jailed during their trial. They had alleged neglect by prison officials in ensuring medical aid, tests, hygiene and social distancing.

Swamy, who claims to be suffering from several ailments, including the Parkinson's disease, had moved the high court earlier this year through advocate Desai, seeking medical treatment and interim bail on health grounds. He had tested positive for coronavirus at a private hospital last month and was subsequently shifted to the ICU. His plea for medical bail and bail on merits was listed for hearing in the high court on Friday (July 4) but could not be taken up due to paucity of time.

With regards to his health, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was looking into the complaint drawing attention to his serious health condition on Sunday (July 4) had issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra. The notice has called upon the chief secretary to ensure that every possible effort is made to provide Stan with proper medical care.

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