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Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders write to President over Stan Swamy’s death ‘under custody’

Leaders of 10 opposition parties including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Tuesday wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind expressing “outrage” at the death of Father Stan Swamy “under custody”, and seeking his intervention in holding accountable those responsible for “foisting false cases” on the activist, his continued detention and “inhuman treatment”.

The signatories also include NCP chief Sharad Pawar, former prime minister and JDS leader H D Deve Gowda and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin (DMK) and his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren (JMM) have also signed the letter, besides D Raja (CPI), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and Tejashwi Yadav (RJD).

The 84-year-old priest-activist Stan Swamy, arrested under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the Elgar Parishad case, died at a Mumbai hospital Monday in the middle of his fight for bail on health grounds.

“We the undersigned leaders of major opposition parties are writing to you in deep anguish expressing our intense grief and outrage at the death of Father Stan Swamy under custody,” the opposition leaders said in their joint letter.

“We are urging your immediate intervention as the President of India to direct your government to act against those responsible for foisting false cases on him, his continued detention in jail and inhuman treatment,” they said.

“They must be held accountable. It is now incumbent that all those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case and other detenues under politically motivated cases, misusing draconian laws like UAPA, Sedition etc, be released forthwith,” they said.

The leaders said the activist who championed the rights and causes of the adivasis in far flung areas of Jharkhand was jailed last October on “trumped-up” charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and was sought to be linked with the Bhima Koregaon case.

They have also alleged that he was denied treatment for his various ailments including the debilitating Parkinson’s disease.

“Only after a nationwide campaign was conducted that even a sipper to drink liquids was made available to him in jail. The numerous appeals made to shift him out of the over-crowded Taloja jail that had seen a huge rise in Covid cases went unheeded.

“His appeals for bail and being sent home too were rejected. Thanks to the Bombay High Court’s intervention he was admitted to a private hospital when his condition started deteriorating after he was infected with Covid. But it was too late to prevent his death in custody,” they also claimed in their letter.

Dr Ian D’souza, director of the Bandra-based private Holy Family Hospital, where Swamy was undergoing treatment, and the tribal rights activist’s lawyer Mihir Desai on Monday informed a bench of the Bombay High Court of his death following cardiac arrest

In a tweet, Yechury said on Tuesday, “Leaders of major opposition parties urge intervention of President of India to hold accountable those responsible for the detention, inhuman treatment and death of Fr Stan Swamy. Release all detenues detained by misusing UAPA/Sedition etc., on politically motivated charges.

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