The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Ireland has launched an appeal on behalf of a falsely imprisoned Indian Jesuit. They are urging people to contact their local TD’s and raise the case of 83-year-old Fr Stan Swamy from Ranchi in India, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency of India and imprisoned on Thursday 8 October 2020. He was wrongly accused of having links with banned extremist groups.
Fr Swamy is a human rights activist who has worked for over 50 years with the poor and marginalised of India especially its indigenous people. During July and August of this year, he was interrogated multiple times for over 15 hours by the NIA.
They questioned him about the Elgar Parishad event that preceded the violence between Dalits and Marathas at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on 31 December 2017. The NIA falsely accuses him of having personal links with the banned extremist groups of Maoists and Naxalites. Fr Swamy who, according to BBC News, is the oldest person in India to have been arrested on such charges is also in poor health.
Jesuits and their colleagues in Britain and around the world are joining in the campaign to have Fr Swamy released from prison. The Catholic Church in India is also protesting the arrest.
Dr Kevin Hargaden, Director of the JCFJ, is urgently appealing to Irish people to help have him freed. They have prepared a template letter which you can download here » and send to your local TD.
Fr Stan Swamy SJ is just one of many prominent human rights defenders who have been arrested recently in India following caste-based violence in 2018. 15 other people have also been detained on similar charges including some of India’s most respected scholars, lawyers, and academics. Some have contracted Covid-19 in prison.
Two days before his detention, Fr Stan posted a video statement saying, “What is happening to me is not unique. Many activists, lawyers, writers, journalists, student leaders, poets, intellectuals, and others who stand for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits, and the marginalized… are being targeted and put into jail.”
Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, Secretary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Jesuits in Rome and who knows Fr Swamy, says, “We, as Jesuits involved in works of education, caring and defending the rights of the poor and the vulnerable all over the world. We stand in solidarity with Stan and other human rights defenders in India and strongly condemn the arrest of Fr Stan Swamy, demand his immediate release, and request the State to refrain from arbitrary arrests of innocent law-abiding citizens.”
Kevin Hargaden is appealing to people to help Fr Swamy. “Please send a letter to your TD demanding the Department of Foreign Affairs make urgent representation to the Indian State. If we want to help free Fr Stan we must act now.”