|Joint Statement from Dalit organisations in the UK, on global outrage following the death of 84 year old Father Stan Swamy who was arrested by the Indian state for helping the poor in India|
(Asian Independent)- There was shock and mourning across Dalit and Advasis (tribal) communities as the news of the death broke out. Globally, thousands of human rights activists, political leaders and Indian citizens have taken to social media to pay tributes to jailed tribal rights activist Stan Swamy who died at the age of 84 in custody of an Indian prison.
The Jesuit priest, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was the oldest to be accused of terrorism under the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in India.
After years of harassment he was arrested in October 2020 and forced to spend eight months in a Mumbai prison, awaiting a trial that never took place. During this time, his health deteriorated rapidly to the point where he could not eat or bathe by himself. After several denials of bails on grounds of his poor health and chronic over-congestion of the prison, he contracted Covid-19 in the prison. Only after repeated requests from his lawyers was he moved to a private hospital, where shortly after he died of cardiac arrest in the western city of Mumbai on Monday 5th July 2021.
Father Stan Swamy was among 16 renowned activists, academics and lawyers who were falsely accused under a draconian anti-terror law (UAPA), of supporting the banned Maoist organisation in what came to be known as the Bhima Koregaon case. All the accused have vehemently denied these allegations.
Father Stan Swamy, spent most of his life working with victims of caste violence, and on the land struggles of tribespeople in Jharkhand. These people are being forcible moved off their lands, by the Indian State to give corporate mining industries access to the valuable natural mineral resources in the ground.
Activists from a number of organisations in the UK have expressed their outrage at the death of Father Stan Swamy:
Ms Santosh Dass MBE,
President of Federation Of Ambedkarite & Buddhist Org UK (FABO-UK), said:
“I’m numb, sad, and outraged at the news of Father Stan Swamy death. He spent his life defending Tribal and Adivasis people in India. The spurious evidence that’s been the basis of these incarcerations in the Bhima Koregaon case has been robustly challenged. Enough is enough. All those arrested in this case must be released before another one of them dies at the hands of the state and judiciary. They must be financially compensated for loss of income and reputation and provided free private healthcare for the rest of their lives to deal with the impact of the unjust incarceration on their bodies and minds.”
Mr Lekh Pall,
Indian Workers Association Great Britain, said:
“The arrest of human and democratic rights activists, who express their dissenting opinion against the Indian Government, the current Modi led BJP Government in particular, under the UAPA has become the norm rather than the exception. Under such draconian laws one is presumed guilty and is burdened with, near impossible task, of proving his/her innocence. There is an alarming rise of the number of detainees being held captive in prisons for months and years only to be eventually released without charges. This system of judicial imprisonment destroys lives and devastate families. UAPA is a barbaric law which has no place in a democratic society. It must be scrapped and consigned to the dust bin colonial history.”
Mr Sam Kalyan,
President, Bhagwan Valmik Sabha Bedford, said:
“It seems that the large section of society and media has no voice. Open your mouth against the government and you committing a crime against the nation. Such is state of affairs in supposedly the largest democracy in the world – India!”.
Mr Ravi Kumar,
General Secretary, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, said:
“The largest democracy in the world could not tolerate a courageous, non-violent voice and ultimately silenced it. Many others like father Stan Swamy are still incarcerating in jail on trumped up charges. We demand the immediate release of all persons imprisoned for political reasons.”
Dr Raj Chand,
Vice-Chair, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, said:
“An orchestrated crime by the Modi-led BJP Government. To continue to call India a democracy is laughable on the world stage!”
Mr Bhagwant Singh,
United Front UK, said:
“It has become clear, that anybody who opposes caste violence in India, or who stands up for the protection of their land and natural resources in India, is accused of being anti-Indian, and for having links with Maoist rebels.”
Mr Sat Paul,
Secretary, British Ravidassia Heritage Foundation, said:
“It is totally unacceptable that innocent people are suffering inhumane conditions in Indian prisons for indefinite periods of time without any prospect of a fair trial.”
Mr Avtar Atwal,
President, Asian Rationalist Society Britain (ARSB), said:
“The death of Fr Stan Swamy, caused by complete abrogation of responsibilities to protect fundamental human rights by both state and central government, has outraged all those who believe in and concerned about fundamental human rights. The way Fr Swamy was treated by jail authorities, despite his frailty and illness, shows the contempt and intolerance the government has for those who tend to differ with it. Fundamental human rights of all Indian citizens, bestowed by the Indian Constitution international conventions and treaties, must be respected and preserved, irrespective of their political, religious views or socio-economic backgrounds.”
We demand the following:
1. All those arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case are released immediately.
Dr Anand Temtumbde, Rona Wilson
Varavara Rao Sudha Bharadwaj
Arun Ferreira Gautam Navlakha
Vernon Gonsalves Sudhir Dhawale
Mahesh Raut Shoma Sen
Surendra Gadling Hany Babu
Sagar Gorkhe Ramesh Ghaichor
2. That there is an independent investigation. Led by the United Nations, into the abuse of
human right of these Indian academics who were arrested for free speech.
3. The Prison authorities who denied Father Stan Swamy basic amenities relating to his
Parkinson’s disease should be immediately removed and investigated.
4. Activities of multi-national corporations exploiting natural resources in tribal lands are
exposed and investigated by the United Nations.
5. Indian police force, judiciary, and the Government are held to account for the death of Father
6. Those wrongly arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case must be properly compensated. The
actions of the arresting and detention authorities must be subjected to judicial review.
7. Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), collectively referred to as Dalits, are one
of the largest minorities in India. They are:
regular victims of oppression and bonded labour,
many suffer from social and economic deprivation
their houses are burnt to the ground,
their women are abused, raped and paraded naked,
and men and women are murdered routinely on daily basis.
8. We condemn the false cases lodged against human rights activists and their frequent
incarceration. We believe our problems can be best solved in a secular democratic united
9. A national and international alliance of all organisations opposing these activities will be
Joint Statement Supported by following organisations:
- Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA)
- Anti Land Grab and Forced Displacement of People
- Asian Rationalist Society, Britain (ARSB)
- All Bhagwan Valmik Sabhas and associated Temples in the UK
- British Asian Christian Concern
- British Ravidassia Heritage Research Group
- Dr. Ambedkar Mission Society, Bedford
- Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK (FABO-UK)
- Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Association, UK
- Indian Workers’ Association, Great Britain (IWA-GB)
- Kanshi Radio Ltd
- Kanshi TV
- Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha UK (SGRS-UK), and all associated Temples in the UK
- Ravidassia Community Centre, Hitchin
- United Front UK