Stan Swamy targeted because he resisted persecution of tribals, Dalits: Jean Dreze

Activist and welfare economist Jean Dreze said Stan Swamy was targeted because he resisted persecution of tribals and Dalits.

84-year-old tribal activist Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, arrested by NIA under UAPA in October 2020, died in Mumbai waiting for interim medical bail in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. India Today TV Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to activist and welfare economist Jean Dreze who said Stan Swamy was targeted because he resisted the persecution of tribals and Dalits.

Q: Your first reactions?

It’s one of the saddest days of my life. I had known Stan Swamy for 15-20 years. He was a wonderful human being and an exemplary citizen. Nothing can excuse the manner in which he was treated. He was not a Maoist by any stretch of the imagination. Even if he was, he was entitled to human treatment.

He was not escaping, he was cooperating with the investigation, he was not a flight risk, and he couldn’t tamper with evidence. Absolutely no logic whatsoever in refusing bail. But we must remember this is routine practice in UAPA cases. Thousands of people across the country are being treated in the same manner for years. That needs to be urgently looked at. Very few counties, if any, treat their prisoners in this manner, letting them languish in jail without trial. Without even knowing what is happening about their trial. Their families are being ruined by greedy lawyers.

And if the trial happens, they are acquitted in most cases. The conviction rate in UAPA cases is just two per cent. By the time they’re acquitted, their lives are ruined. The sacrosanct principle that people are innocent until proven guilty has been turned on its head. It’s now guilty until proven innocent. That has to change.

Q: It appears that those who have worked among tribals are in a way seen to be Maoist supporters…

That’s one way of explaining this cruelty. I think it was a deliberate attempt to make an example and send a message that the people who do that sort of work will meet the same fate. I guess Stan was targeted because he stood in the way of the persecution of tribals, Dalits. He showed a relentless defence of under-trial prisoners. He was also working for communal harmony. That’s where he became a nuisance for the government.

Source: India Today

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