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'Institutional murder': PUCL, other rights groups condemn Fr Stan's 'custodial' death

By Our Representative 

India’s premier human rights organisation, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), has joined several other rights organisations to say that the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Central government and the Prison authorities are “together responsible for this wholly unnecessary and fully preventable death” of Fr Stan Swamy. “which actually amounts to “institutional murder.”
In a statement, PUCL said, “We strongly condemn the totally callous, insensitive and vengeful approach of the prosecution authorities to the prayer for interim bail to Fr Stan and other prisoners like him who suffered medical conditions making them vulnerable to Covid infections while inside prison.”
Fr Stan was arrested in October 2020 in the Bhima Koregaon case and kept in prison even though he was 84 years old, was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had to be assisted for even ordinary chores like holding a glass of water.
PUCL said, “The vengefulness of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) and the brute nature of the Indian government are exposed by the strident attack launched by NIA who fought viciously to deny bail to Fr Stan even when it became apparent that his health was deteriorating.”
It added, “An equally heartless and pitiless prison administration adamantly refused timely medical treatment even when it was clear that he was suffering what appeared to be typical Covid symptoms.”
According to PUCL, had Fr Stan been alive, he “would have fully endorsed the call that all prisoners, especially political prisoners, including the other Bhima Koregaon co-prisoners who still are in jail be released on bail, as a measure to decongest prisons and ensure safety of prisoners from being affected by Corona pandemic.”

All India Catholic Association

The All India Catholic Association (AICA) said in a statement, Fr Stan was brought to the Holy Family hospital “after facing inhuman treatment while in jail together with others arrested in the so-called Bhima Koregaon conspiracy to murder political leaders.”
Arrested under the “draconian” Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), AICA, in a statement, demanded “judicial enquiry” in his death and sought repeal of UAPA and similar “draconian laws” under which thousands of people, old and young “have been put in jail and denied rudimentary justice”, adding, “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.”

National Coordination of Human Rights Organisations

The National Coordination of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), said, Fr Stan “was incarcerated on fabricated charges in the Bhima Koregaon case”, adding, “The Bhima Koregaon case is a notorious example of activists being targeted by the Indian government for standing up for justice.”
It said, “The death of Fr Stan 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.”

Popular Front of India

The Popular Front of India (PFI) said the demise of Fr Stan shows the “draconian UAPA and the vicious form of state vendetta that does not even spare an octogenarian priest with serious chronic diseases”, adding, it only exposes “the rot in our criminal justice system.”
"It is with deep sorrow and resentment that we received the news of the sad demise of Fr Stan", PFI said, adding, "The cruelty committed on him has no justification in a civilized society... Father will be remembered as a man who lived by his ideals to the last moment. He found the fulfilment of his faith in serving the marginalized sections of society and fighting for their rights." 

Indian Community Activists’ Network 

The Indian Community Activists’ Network (ICAN) has described Father Stan Swamy’s death in “custody” an “unspeakable crime by the state, a slow and painful murder in full public view”, and “the height of misuse of state power to incarcerate a terminally sick old man on false charges.”
Pointing out that he was “a friend and advisor to all activists who wanted to help the indigenous people of Central India tribal belt”, in a statement, ICAN convener Dipak Dholakia added, he helped understand “the root cause of the under-development of the richest natural resources in India.”
Calling July 5 “a sad day for the country, ICAN regretted, “The largest democracy in the world could not tolerate a courageous, non-violent voice and ultimately silenced it”, adding, “Many others like father Stan Swamy are still incarcerating in jail in connection with a trumped up Elgar Parishad case.”
It demanded “apology from the state and immediate release of all persons imprisoned for political reasons.”

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