Human Rights activist Stan Swamy, the oldest person accused of terrorism in India, dies at 84

Reputed Human Rights activist Stan Swamy has passed away in Mumbai on Monday at the age of 84. He was battling his health condition and the legal charges that were filed against him by the National Investigative Agency (NIA), the central body that arrested Swamy in October 2020 by accusing him in the Elgar Parishad-Maoists links case. 

Swamy, who is a Jesuit priest, was undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit of the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai, where he was shifted from the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai following a High Court order on May 28 this year.  On Monday, minutes before his death, the Bombay High Court was hearing petitions seeking bail for him and a constitutional challenge to a section of UAPA. During the hearing, Swamy's lawyer has announced his death. 

Stan Swamy was on life support after his condition has worsened. He had suffered a cardiac arrest at 4.30 am on Saturday and his health had deteriorated further and the human rights activist had breathed his last at 1.30 pm. The medical director of the hospital Dr Souza said, "It is with a very heavy heart that I have to inform you that father Stan Swamy has passed away." 

Stan Swamy was born on 26 April 1937, in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu and he was popularly known for his work with tribal people and the fight for their rights, particularly in Jharkhand. His birth name was Stan Lourduswamy and in the 1970s, he studied theology and Masters in Sociology in the Philippines. During his further studies, he had earned a relationship with Brazilian Catholic Archbishop Helder Camara, whose work with poor people had influenced Swamy. 

Swamy had served as the Director of the Indian Social Institute in Bengaluru from 1975 to 1986. He had strongly questioned the government over the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian constitution, which notifies the setting up of a Tribes Advisory Council with members solely of the Adivasi community for their protection, well-being, and development in the state. 

He had then moved to Jharkhand and mainly worked with tribal people who were getting displaced. In October 2020, Stan Swamy was accused in the Elgar Parishad- Maoists links case and he was arrested by the NIA from his residence in Ranchi. He was one of the several accused who were named by the Pune police in the case, along with others like Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao. The arrests had stirred nationwide outrage with several activists across the country that the entire case was framed and the arrests were made due to political vendetta.

The NIA had charged Swamy and others as being members of outfits working for banned Maoists. The investigative agency, which comes under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, had claimed that Swamy was a Maoist and he had plotted to create unrest in the country. The Elgar Parishad case is related to the speeches made on December 31, 2017, at a conclave in Pune. The police had claimed that the speeches had sparked violence the next day near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial. The Pune police had alleged that the conclave was organized by people with Maoist links. 

In connection to the case, the NIA had in October 2020 arrested Stan Swamy in Ranchi. He had held fierce legal battles to win his rights in the prison. Earlier this year, Swamy had filed a petition to the Bombay High Court seeking medical treatment as he was suffering from several ailments including Parkinson's disease. He also sought interim bail on health grounds. He had requested the jail authorities to provide a sipper and a straw in order to eat due to Parkinson's disease. 

Initially, NIA had claimed that they do not have Stan Swamy's straw and sipper and social media users had ordered straw and sipper online. After the outrage, the jail authorities had fulfilled his request after four weeks and provided him with the sipper and straw, and after a directive from the High Court, he was admitted to the hospital. He had tested positive for the COVID-19 viral infection at the hospital in June and he was then shifted to the Intensive Care Unit. 

He was battling for survival and on Saturday, he had suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday and had breathed his last on Monday at the age of 84. Swamy was the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India and in January 2021, he was awarded the Mukundan C. Menon award for human rights. Several activists are expressing their condolences to the departed soul. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had expressed his condolences and taking to Twitter, he wrote, "Heartfelt condolences on the passing of Father Stan Swamy. He deserved justice and humaneness."