Detained Jesuit Stan Swamy, 84, dies in India

New Delhi, July 5 (EFE).- Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old priest-activist, detained since October last year under a controversial anti-terrorism law, died on Monday in a hospital in India.

His lawyer, Mihir Desai, confirmed the passing away of the octogenarian activist during a hearing on his bail application in the Bombay High Court.

The defense had sought bail for the Jesuit on health grounds after his condition deteriorated due to Covid-19.

Swamy, who spent decades fighting for the rights of marginalized people, contracted the coronavirus in jail and was transferred from a prison to a hospital in Mumbai on May 28.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered the state government on Sunday to ensure that Swamy received “adequate care” after his health worsened, forcing the doctors to put him on respiratory support.

The priest was detained in October by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that probes all terror-related cases in India,

Police charged Swamy under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which gives Indian authorities unbridled powers for detention and investigation.

Critics of the law say it is draconian and is among the several so-called anti-terror laws abused by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The authorities alleged that Swamy was associated with the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist.

The government blames the Leftist rebel outfit for attacks in the mineral and resource-rich region of central India. Maoist militants seek to impose an agrarian revolution.

The Maoist rebellion continues to be active after half a century of operations in the country.

The Indian police arrested the octogenarian activist in a case related to a clash that broke out on Jan.1, 2018, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

The clash took place between Dalits, lower-caste Hindus formerly known as untouchables, and some Hindu nationalists from the upper caste groups.

Thousands had gathered to mark the victory of Dalit soldiers in the British Army over an upper-caste force 200 years ago.

But the celebration was interrupted by the group of Hindu nationalists brandishing saffron flags.

Swamy always denied the allegations, claiming that it was a politically motivated case to silence his activism.

His arrest and those of other activists sparked criticism from human rights organizations.

“Tribal activist Stan Swamy dies at 84. Indian authorities jailed him despite his frail health on vague allegations under counter terror laws,” Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said on Twitter.

Ganguly said the government should immediately release all those detained in the case.


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