Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old jailed priest, received the National Confederation of Human Rights Organization’s (NCHRO) Mukundan C Menon Award 2020 in recognition of his struggle for democratic and human rights of Adivasis.
The award, which includes a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and a citation, is awarded in honour of the late Mukundan C. Menon, journalist and founder of the human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties. It is awarded each year to organisations and individuals which embody excellent activism in the defence of human rights.
Menon, a human rights activist for more than 35 years, was the first general secretary of the NCHRO.
The award would be sent to Fr. Stan at Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai, where he has been lodged following his arrest by the anti-terror agency NIA from his Ranchi home on October 8. The money will be sent to Bagaicha, the organisation set up by him in Ranchi. In his absence, Father Joseph S.J., director of Indian Social Institute, Bengaluru, accepted the award.
Fr. Stan Swamy was arrested on October 8, 2020, in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case. He has spent more than four decades campaigning for tribal rights in Jharkhand.
He has questioned the authorities’ failure to implement the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which stipulates the establishment of a Tribal Advisory Council, with exclusively tribal members, for the protection, well-being and development of tribal communities.
A campaign Fr. Stan had launched under the banner of the Jharkhand Organisation Against Uranium Radiation (Joar) had stopped the construction of a tailing pond to store uranium waste in Jadugora, East Singhbhum, which would have displaced tribal families.
Fr. Stan had continued to work for the welfare of displaced people in Bokaro, Santhal Pargana and Koderma.
In 2014, he came under the state machinery’s radar after compiling and publishing a report on the plight of tribal youths falsely linked to Maoists, arrested and left to languish in jail.
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and non-BJP Opposition parties have condemned Fr. Stan’s arrest and demanded his release.
Previous winners included A Vasu, M. Rasheed, Laha Gopalan, CR Neelakhandan, NM Siddique, Leela Kumariamma, SP Udayakumar, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association, CK Janu, Ram Puniyani, Suresh Khairnar and O Abdulla, V.T. Rajshekar and Prof. GN Saibaba.