Tribal rights activist Stan Swamy was put on ventilator support at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai on Sunday, his friend and colleague Father Joseph Xavier said.
“He [Swamy] was put on ventilator early this [Sunday] morning,” Xavier told Scroll.in. “He remains in a critical condition.”
The 84-year-old activist, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, had been in jail for nine months in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. In May, he had tested positive for Covid-19 after being shifted to the hospital on the Bombay High Court’s orders. Taking note of Swamy’s health condition, the High Court had on June 17 said that he should stay in the hospital till July 5.
Civil society groups have repeatedly called for Swamy’s release from jail due to his ill health. On Sunday, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha renewed its demand for the activist’s release as his health worsened.
“The NIA [the National Investigation Agency] and central government are solely responsible for the sufferings of this elderly person and the current state of affairs,” the civil rights group tweeted. “Mahasabha demands from the central and Maharashtra governments that all necessary medical and specialised treatment be urgently ensured for Stan Swamy.”
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha also demanded that the High Court grants him bail immediately.
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor called on the authorities to provide “every possible specialist treatment” to the activist.
“Horrible news to learn that Indian HRD [human rights defender] Stan Swamy is in very serious condition,” she said. “He has spent nine months in jail on unfounded charges. I am deeply saddened.”
Swamy was arrested by the NIA on October 8 and brought to Mumbai from Ranchi. He has been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly furthering the cause of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) through various civil rights organisations he worked with.
On Saturday, Swamy moved the Bombay High Court challenging a section of the anti-terror law that bars granting of bail to an accused if the court finds that the allegations against them are prima facie true.
In his petition, the 84-year-old activist said that the section created an “unsurmountable hurdle” for an accused to get bail under UAPA, which was a violation of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India.
“Presumption of innocence is a fundamental tenet of our criminal jurisprudence and is a human right,” Swamy said in his petition. “In any event, when such harsh conditions are imposed in respect of grant of bail even before the trial is conducted, the same inverts on its head the presumption of innocence.”
In his bail plea in March, Swamy had said that he was being targeted by the NIA because of his writings and work related to caste and land struggles of the people.
The central agency, however, has claimed that it has sufficient evidence to prima facie prove that Swamy was involved in the conspiracy to instigate caste violence in the Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018.
Several activists and academics have been accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.