With great anger, the Lok Raj Sangathan condemns the custodial death of Fr Stan Swamy on July 5, 2021
Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, 7 July 2021
Photo source: https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/father-stan-swamy-passes-away-before-bombay-hc-hears-his-bail-plea
With great anger, the Lok Raj Sangathan condemns the custodial death of Fr Stan Swamy on July 5, 2021, in a hospital in Mumbai. It must be noted that the 84 year old prisoner of conscience was suffering from various ailments and had also contracted the Covid 19 infection while in prison. Yet the authorities, particularly the notorious National Investigating Agency (NIA), steadfastly opposed his pleas to be released on bail – something which even hardened criminals with long records would normally not be denied in his condition.
Fr Swamy was a highly principled Jesuit priest, who was born in Tamil Nadu, and spent most of his life working for the rights and upliftment of tribal peoples in what is today Jharkhand. In October 2020, Fr Swamy was summoned by the NIA to Bombay and has been held in custody since that time. He was shifted to a hospital in May 2020 due to the deterioration of his health. Fr Swamy was a victim of Parkinsoniansim, a serious disease leading to many debilitating conditions, including the inability to be able to drink fluids normally. After a long protest by thousands of citizens, after a month or so, he was allowed the use of a sipper cup and a flexi-straw. He had sought interim bail so as to be able to go back to Ranchi which he had made his home. During one of his bail petition hearings, the NIA had even said that Fr Swamy was trying to `benefit’ from the pandemic conditions to exaggerate the dangers posed to his health by Covid to try and gain the sympathy of the Court to obtain bail – a most cruel statement since he actually did contract the infection in jail. The list of what constitutes human rights abuse in this case is long and has shocked all men and women of conscience across the length and breadth of the country and across the globe.
Born in 1937 in Tiruchirapalli Stan Lourduswamy, affectionately and universally known as Fr Stan Swamy became a Jesuit priest and served among other places as Director of the well-known Indian Social Institute in Bangalore. His tireless work amongst the tribal peoples is well known. Fr Swamy was booked in the so-called Elgar Parishad “Bheema Koregaon” case, with less than 10 pages in the 5000 page charge sheet mentioning anything against him. Fr Swamy has said he has nothing at all to do with Bheema Koregaon. Many feel that the real reason to incarcerate Fr Swamy is that he was speaking for the rights of men and women in Jharkhand who had been incarcerated or made to disappear for one reason or another under the pretext of they being `Maoists’ and trying to get those who were in detention out of prison. The mere presence of a man of conscience, with education and knowledge of law and of right and wrong was enough to earmark and target him for detention in a trumped-up case.
The use of various black laws such as UAPA to quell dissent has been centre of attention in the last few years in the struggle for rights across the country. A person like Fr Swamy could not be allowed to be free, lest he could have, through his work challenged the use of such laws to crush dissent and resistance to the activities of big companies and corporations in various parts of the country, in their greedy search for land and raw material, which have displaced many poor tribals and Adivasi people.
Fr Stan’s death has saddened all those who feel passionately about justice. It should make everyone pause and give a chance to everyone to think carefully about the nature of the black laws under which lakhs of persons are detained across the length and breadth of the country. Lok Raj Sangathan calls upon all men and women of conscience to come together in their grief and throw open the gates of the discussion, to demand for the repeal of these laws, and to fight to create conditions so that genuine democracy can really take root in Indian soil.