The Samiksha Sanskrit Manch, a Varanasi-based citizens’ group has demanded the release of those arrested under draconian laws.The demand was made during a tribute meeting and candle march organised on July 12, 2021 in memory of Adivasi rights activist and Jesuit priest Fr. Stan Swamy.
Many people attended the tribute meeting held at Shastri Ghat Varunapul and decried the manner in which an aged man with Parkinson’s disease was rejected bail while other hate-spewing people walk free in the country. During the meeting, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Shashi Bhushan also paid his respects to the activist by singing the revolutionary song ‘Dastoor’ in front of the group of supporters.
Later, the gathering marched with candles to the Ambedkar Murti Court to demand justice against the custodial death of Fr. Stan. Those present vehemently demanded the elimination of draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and investigating agencies the National Investigation Agency (NIA). They called for the release of political prisoners arrested and penalised under these laws.
Attendees also demanded an inquiry into the death of Fr Stan, who died away from his family on July 5 at Holy Family hospital in Mumbai city. The human rights activist was arrested on October 8, 2020 for alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon case. He was accused of conspiring with Maoists to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After his death, others accused in the case like Sudha Bharadwaj, Surendra Gadling, Anand Teltumbde and others condemned the incident, and observed a hunger strike to demand a judicial inquiry against jail authorities. Like Fr. Stan many of these undertrial prisoners suffer from serious medical conditions that put them at risk, especially amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“Father Stan’s worked in Jharkhand for more than three decades on various issues of tribal communities on land, forest and labor rights. He also raised questions on the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution wherein a Tribal Advisory Council is to be set up with only tribal community members for their safety, welfare and development,” said Father Prakash Lewis.
Father Stan’s legacy
Fr. Stan had advocated against the arrest of thousands of young tribals and indigenous people, labelled as ‘Naxals’. He had also opposed the idea of land banks and said that the land belonging to tribal communities should be freed and returned to them. During a similar memorial by the Jesuits of India, family members of Fr. Stan spoke of how the activist considered the Adivasi community his real family and brought up discussions about their struggle in everyday conversations.
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The institutional murder of Father Stan Swamy