India: Death in custody of land rights & anti-mining activist Stan Swamy sparks demands for justice amid alleged ill-treatment
On 5th July 2021, anti-mining and Adivasi Indigenous rights activist Fr Stan Swamy, an 84 year-old Jesuit priest and human rights defender, died in custody after being repeatedly denied bail. The defender spent nine months in jail under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA); he was reportedly denied medical care in jail, and only transferred to a hospital when his condition became critical on 29th May, 2021, due to contraction of Covid-19. Human rights groups had raised concerns about inhuman and degrading detention conditions after the Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Mumbai rejected his request for a straw, sipper bottle and winter clothes. He was a prominent advocate against the forced displacement of Adivasi communities, typically occurring in the context of development and the mining of mineral-rich land. He spoke out against the systemic discrimination and violence directed at the Adivasi community. He was among 16 renowned activists, academics and lawyers, who were charged under a draconian anti-terror law. Swamy had repeatedly denied the charges, saying he was being targeted for his work related to the caste and land struggles of tribespeople in Jharkhand state.