Bhima Koregaon Case: 2,500 Concerned Citizens Demand Release of Stan Swamy

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Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy

A joint statement issued by activists, intellectuals, film-makers, journalists and lawyers describes Swamy as a symbol of the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners who languish in jail for years under fabricated UAPA charges

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — Around 2,500 concerned citizens from different walks of life have issued a joint statement calling for the immediate release of 83-year-old Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy held in the Bhima Koregaon case. This comes following the latest round of rejection of his bail plea by a special NIA court on March 22.

The citizens have also demanded repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and upholding the norms where ‘bail is the rule not the exception’

The signatories to the statement include activists, intellectuals, film-makers, journalists, lawyers, academics as well as economists from across the country.

Swamy was arrested by the NIA on October 8 last year in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. The case relates to January 1, 2018 incident when violence broke out at an event marking the 200 years of the battle of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra leaving one dead and several others injured.

According to the statement released on Tuesday the rejection of the bail application of Swami, “with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension”.

The activists described him as an exceptionally gentle, honest and selfless person. They said they have the highest regard for him and his work.

“He has spent decades in Jharkhand working for the rights of the Adivasis and underprivileged. It is ironic that while public support for Stan Swamy continues to grow, the court rejected the bail application in the community’s interest,” the statement stated. It also underlined a recent report, prepared on the basis of electronic evidence collected by the NIA that revealed how documents were planted into the computers of the main accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Swami’s arrest has been condemned by Adivasis, Gram Sabhas, civil society, several political leaders and parties and Jharkhand’s Chief Minister himself.

The statement described Swamy as a symbol of the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners who languish in jail for years under fabricated UAPA charges, often aimed at harassing those who stand up for the underprivileged or oppose the government.

“Swamy already has told the NIA that some so-called extracts allegedly taken from his computer were fabricated and that he disowned them. But it is disturbing that the court decided to ignore this evidence of fabrication and rejected the bail application,” the statement lamented,

“We appeal for immediate bail for Stan Swamy, repeal of UAPA, and a return to the norm where bail is the rule not the exception,” read the statement.

Critics have raised questions over the use of UAPA against activists and dissenters as recent data has shown that the conviction rate in such cases is pretty low (2.2% during 2016-19 as mentioned in the Parliament) which points to the lack of grounds of invoking the act in the first place.

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