Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old priest-activist arrested under an anti-terror law in the Elgar Parishad case last year, died today, in the middle of his fight for bail on health grounds. The Jesuit priest had been on a ventilator since yesterday, when his health worsened drastically.
Stan Swamy was being treated at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai following a court order on May 28.
Jailed in a prison near Mumbai, he spent the last few months of his life fighting legal battles for even the smallest of needs. In December, he was allowed a straw and a sipper in jail, which he had requested on account of Parkinson’s disease.
Last month, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which arrested him in October from his home in a severely criticized late-night swoop, opposed his bail request in court and had said there was no “conclusive proof” of his medical ailments. The agency had alleged that Stan Swamy was a Maoist who had plotted to cause unrest in the country.
Stan Swamy had told the High Court via video-conferencing that his health had consistently declined at the Taloja prison and if he was not granted interim bail, he “would die soon”. He had requested medical treatment and interim bail multiple times.
Last week, Stan Swamy had filed a fresh plea for bail in the Bombay High Court, challenging the stringent conditions for bail to an accused charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) Act.
Stan Swamy and other accused in the case had even complained to the court of inadequate health facilities in the Taloja prison near Mumbai, where they had been jailed. They had alleged neglect by prison officials in ensuring medical aid, tests, hygiene and social distancing in the time of Covid.
Stan Swamy, who had worked for tribals in Jharkhand for over five decades, was accused by the NIA of links to Naxals, especially the banned CPI (Maoists).
The case relates to an event on December 31, 2017 in Koregaon-Bhima near Pune, which was followed by violence and arson that left one person dead. Investigators claim that activists at the event, an Elgar Parishad meet, had made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements that led to violence the next day.
Stan Swamy was arrested from his home in Jharkhand capital Ranchi by a team of NIA officials from Delhi.
The NIA said senior leaders of the CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, were in contact with the organisers of the Elgar Parishad event as well as the arrested activists, and aimed to spread Maoist and Naxal ideology and encourage unlawful activities.
Several prominent activists, scholars and lawyers have spent over two years in jail as they wait for trial.
Stan Swamy, who had many health problems, was the oldest to be arrested. He had also tested positive for the coronavirus at a private hospital last month and was subsequently shifted to the ICU.