Back to top
Fr. Stan Swamy

Fr. Stan Swamy

HRD Article

82-year-old Stan Swamy, suspect in Bhima Koregaon case, ‘appeals to nation’s conscience’

Fr. Stan Swamy, prominent human rights defender and champion of the rights of Dalit and indigenous communities, died in custody on 5 July 2021. The 84 year old Jesuit priest, was arrested on 8 October 2020 linked to the Bhima Koregaon case. He is one of 16 human rights defenders who were incarcerated, falsely accused of being involved in the violence that erupted in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. Stan founded the Vistapan Virodhi Janvikash Andolan (VVJA), an all India platform for different movements that are resisting displacement of adivasi people, dalits, and farmers from their lands. The organisation has supported the vulnerable communities in securing their land rights and proposing sustainable development models instead. Stan Swamy expressed dissent with several policies and laws enacted by the government relating to adivasi people and their lands, and questioned their validity and legality in the light of the Indian Constitution. During his 9 month incarceration at Taloja jail, Stan was denied medical treatment and necessary care, despite suffering from advanced parkinsons and at severe risk of Covid-19. He eventually died in custody, after repeatedly being denied bail, due to the lack of effective and timely treatment.

Human rights defenders in India face a diverse range of attacks and harassment from state and non-state actors alike, including killing, physical assault, arbitrary detention, threats and judicial harassment. Police officials are often the perpetrators of violence against HRDs, which is usually carried out with impunity. Armed groups and private companies also target HRDs for work related to economic development projects and their impact on the local communities or the environment. HRDs are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by radical nationalists.