Activists, academics and social workers call to release ailing Stan Swamy
A group of more than 2,500 activists, academics and social workers from India and abroad have issued a public statement demanding the release of ailing Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, 84, languishing in a Mumbai jail for over five months in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Swamy’s bail plea was rejected by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) special court in Mumbai on March 22.
The public statement, whose signatories include people from Jharkhand and other parts of India and also citizens of countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has also demanded that the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act be repealed.
“The UAPA charges against Swamy must be dropped. Stan Swamy is a symbol of the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners who languish in jail for years under fabricated UAPA charges, often aimed at harassing those who stand up for the underprivileged or oppose the government. The conviction rate in UAPA cases is extremely low (2.2 per cent between 2016-19 as mentioned in Parliament), confirming that many of the charges are baseless. Rejection of the bail of an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension,” the joint statement said.
Swamy is one of 16 academics, lawyers and activists arrested in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case involving caste violence in which one person died and an alleged plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. Swamy was picked up from near his home in Namkum near Ranchi.
Swamy suffers from acute Parkinson’s disease along with several other age-related ailments and had sought bail on the ground that the prosecution had failed to establish his involvement in the case.
“We know Stan as an exceptionally gentle, honest and selfless person. We have the highest regard for him and his work. He has spent decades in Jharkhand working for the rights of the Adivasis and underprivileged. It is ironic that while public support for Stan Swamy continues to grow, the court rejected the bail application in the ‘community’s interest’. Adivasis, gram sabhas, civil society, several political leaders and parties, and Jharkhand’s chief minister himself have condemned Stan’s arrest and expressed support and solidarity with him,” the statement said.
“The recent Arsenal (Consulting) report, prepared on the basis of electronic evidence collected by the NIA, has exposed how fake documents were planted into the computers of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Stan himself clearly told the NIA that some so-called extracts allegedly taken from his computer were fabricated and that he disowned them. It is disturbing that the court decided to ignore this evidence of fabrication as it rejected the bail application. We appeal for immediate bail for Stan Swamy, repeal of UAPA and a return to the normal where bail is the rule, not the exception,” the statement concluded.
Some of the prominent persons to have signed the joint statement are Jean Dreze, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, Aloka Kujur, Alpa Shah, Anand Patwardhan, Anuradha Talwar, Apoorvanand, Aruna Roy and Yogendra Yadav.