‘Institutional Murder of a Gentle Soul’: Families of Elgar Parishad Accused on Stan Swamy’s Death

“While we grieve at the passing away of Father Stan Swamy, we unequivocally hold the negligent jails, the indifferent courts and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death.”


New Delhi: The family members and friends of the rights activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case have issued a statement after Father Stan Swamy’s death, terming it an “institutional murder”.

Swamy, an 84-year-old tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest, passed away on Monday after months of ill health and contracting COVID-19 in jail. He was denied bail despite his condition, and had to go to court each time he needed even basic care while custody.

“This is not a natural death, but the institutional murder of a gentle soul, committed by an inhuman state,” reads the statement released by the family members of the other accused in the case. “Having spent his life amongst the Adivasis in Jharkhand, fighting for their right to resources and lands, Father Stan did not deserve to die in this manner, far from his beloved Jharkhand, falsely imprisoned by a vindictive state.”

Swamy was arrested on October 8 last year for his alleged involvement in the Elgar Parishad case, which has been described as a witchhunt against critics of the government. Swamy was the 16th person to be arrested in the case and also the oldest. At the time of his arrest, he was frail and ailing, and had an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease.  Swamy, who had difficulty in even sipping water from a glass, was dependent on co-prisoners to go about his daily life in jail. In the months that followed, Swamy had trouble going about with his day-to-day activities at Taloja jail, before he fell terribly sick in May. Only after the Bombay high court intervened, was he finally moved to Holy Family Hospital in Bandra.

The other accused in the case, whose friends and family have written the statement, are Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Hany Babu, Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Arun Ferreira and Shoma Sen.

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