The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, on Friday evening criticised the Indian government’s treatment of human rights activists such as Father Stan Swamy.
“India is a State which doesn’t properly protect human rights defenders. I am appalled by the treatment of human rights defenders such as Father Stan Swamy, who embodies solidarity,” Lawlor, an adjunct professor on business and human rights in the School of Business of Trinity College, Dublin, said.
She was speaking at an online event on the 100th day since the October 8 arrest of Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest, by the National Investigation Agency from his Ranchi home.
Swamy is one of 16 rights activists, lawyers, writers and academics arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case and charged with Maoist links. He is lodged in a Mumbai jail.
“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and I had written to the Indian government in November raising concerns over the arrest of human rights activists including Stan Swamy in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case but have not yet received any response,” Lawlor said.
“Governments are given a 60-day period during which they are expected to reply.”
Lawlor was speaking 73 days after the November 3, 2020, communication was sent to the government.
She said that earlier this month (January 11) she had tweeted a copy of the letter, where she described as “arbitrary detention” the arrest of Swamy, working to protect the rights of Adivasis and Dalits since the 1970s.
Lawlor said that promoting and protecting human rights in India was challenging, and said the State was responsible for the protection of human rights defenders.
Delhi University professor and writer Apoorvanand moderated the discussion. Advocate Mihir Desai and social activists Xavier Dias, Dayamani Barla, Aloka Kujur, Virginius Xaxa and Dorothy Fernandes participated.
Dancer and activist Mallika Sarabhai, who performed to Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise, said Swamy had done extraordinary work for the poorest and most marginalised.
A candlelight vigil was held in Dumka, Jharkhand, on Friday for Swamy’s release.