84-year-old rights activist Swamy treated unfairly, says Jesuit priest
Kohima, July 19 (EMN): It has been two weeks since 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and renowned human rights defender, died at a hospital in Mumbai after prolonged incarceration at Taloja Central jail in connection with the alleged Bhima Koregaon case.
Swamy was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had requested bail on medical grounds, which was rejected multiple times. While incarcerated, his health deteriorated and died of Covid-19 complications on July 5.
Eastern Mirror spoke to some priests in Nagaland to learn what they had to say following the demise of Swamy.
“Languishing such an old man in jail without any opportunity for appearing in the court is totally unjust,” said Fr. Victor D’Mello SJ, principal of Loyola Higher Secondary School, Jakhama in Kohima on Sunday evening while interacting with this newspaper.
D’Mello, a Jesuit priest who is also responsible for organising a protest demanding the release of Swamy earlier in Kohima, questioned why the National Investigation Agency (NIA) could not produce the ‘evidence’ of Swamy’s involvement in the alleged case when they (NIA) said they had it. “If they have evidence, then they must produce it in the court”, he said.
Swamy was arrested and charged by the NIA under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act last year in October for his alleged role in 2018’s Bhima Koregaon violence.
However, whether Swamy is guilty or not, D’Mello said that they should not “deny human treatment”.
It may be noted that while in prison, Swamy who fought for the rights of downtrodden without religious boundaries for several rights, was denied bail even though he requested the court multiple times on medical grounds.
Swamy even had to wait for several days in jail for a straw and sipper after he requested the authority as he was unable to hold his glass due to Parkinson’s.
“For even requesting a sipper from such a person suffering from Parkinson’s disease, do you need a court hearing?,” D’Mello asked. “That doesn’t make sense. That is being inhuman,” he said.
He observed that even if a person was guilty, treating such a person inhumanely was wrong. “While waiting for justice, a life has been lost,” D’Mello said.
“Our justice system denies human dignity to people even though they are innocent,” he said, adding, “On humanitarian ground, they should have given the ailing old priest the bail especially when Covid-19 is at its peak, but despite that, keeping him in jail with no evidence is not correct”.
Eastern Mirror had earlier reported on a silent protest held on the theme, “Stand with Stan” spearheaded by D’Mello in Kohima wherein Catholic community in Nagaland demanded the release of the octogenarian from prison.
Protesters holding banners and placards had appealed to the government of Nagaland, being one of the few Christian states in the country, to make an appeal to the government of India for Swamy’s immediate release from detention.
“Prophets are a threat to the unjust systems and violators of human rights,” said Fr. Dr. CP Anto, director of Peace Channel and principal of North East Institute of Social Sciences and Researches (NEISSR) while speaking to this newspaper.
“Fr. Stan Swamy’s death stands as a stark reminder for each one of us to live our prophetic call of peace, justice and brotherly love,” he said, adding, “Fr. Stan has laid a legacy for us”.
He asserted that the unjust and merciless practices by custodians of democracy should be condemned. “Today he has become the victim and tomorrow many of our laity, fathers and sisters will become the victims of such draconian laws and unjust systems,” Anto shared.
Extending his heartfelt condolences to the Jesuit family, he thanked Swamy for inspiring them to stand for truth, justice and rights of the poor and marginalised.
The Diocese of Kohima along with CRI Dimapur organised a prayer service in honor of Rev. Fr. Stan at Bishop’s House Dimapur earlier.
According to reports, Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin on Sunday paid floral tributes to the urn and portrait of human rights activist Fr. Stan.