Fr. Stan Swamy, SJ is known for his relentless activism for the Dalits, Tribals and other ethnic groups in India, particularly the Adivasi people in Jharkhand, over the past three decades. He has been empowering the tribal people by creating awareness about their rights over their land and resources and advocating for their welfare and development. He had been pressing the State for the implementation of a Tribes Advisory Council, a council to advise on such matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes in the State mainly comprising of the members of the Adivasi Community. As part of his engagement with the Tribal people, he has also openly supported many struggles and protests of the tribal people including the major one in 2018. He also used the print media to inform the masses about the struggles of the tribals and exploitations of tribal land by corporations for factories, mines, etc.
Since August 2018, the police were at Fr. Stan’s door, questioning and harassing him. Fr. Stan Swamy was also interrogated by the NIA for 15 hours during a span of five days. Apart from his bio-data and some factual information, several extracts were allegedly taken from his computer implicating his connection to Maoist forces and were placed before him.
Finally, on 8 th October 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested the Jesuit Priest, accusing him of links to banned Maoist groups in the state, brought him to Mumbai and later jailed him. The 83-year-old, who is under judicial custody, had sought bail on health grounds. Fr. Stan Swamy’s medical plea has stated, that he has almost lost his hearing ability in both his ears, fallen in jail multiple times, was a hernia patient and has operated on for hernia twice and still suffers pain in his lower abdomen. He is now at Taloja Jail, near Mumbai. However, NIA court rejected the bail plea of Stan Swamy, SJ. He had requested for using straw and sipper as he cannot hold a glass due to the Parkinson’s disease. Nevertheless, the prosecution had sought 20 days to file a reply to this application. A signature campaign was launched to defend the personal liberty of the human rights defenders as well as save the Constitution and to release Fr. Stan Swamy immediately.
On November 6th Friday, once again, he had filed an application before the special court seeking that he should be allowed to use a straw, sipper and winter clothes. The court directed the medical officer of the jail to respond to this and the matter will be next heard on 4 th December 2020. After seeing the continued denial of sipper, straw and blankets to Fr. Stan, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) said “denial of the same constitutes a violation of his basic rights”. Following which NPRD also said, that they and other organizations will send sippers to Taloja jail for Fr. Stan.
On 11 th March there was a hearing from the special NIA court in which court has reserved its order on the bail application of 83-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy to March 22, 2021. The court on Tuesday 16 March allowed an application moved by National Investigation Agency (NIA) seeking to submit additional documents in support of its opposition to Swamy’s bail plea.
A campaign was launched pan-India to provide straws, sippers and blankets or warm clothes to Fr. Swamy at jail. People from all over India had begun to send straws and sipper, and even took screenshots of the order placed and posted on social media platforms. Finally, Fr. Stan was allowed to have sipper.
Again, a post card campaign was launched on December 10, the Human Rights Day, to seek the release of Jesuit Father Stan Swamy and those allegedly accused falsely in the Bhima Koregaon case. Under the campaign, the “Friends of Fr. Stan Swamy” planned to send as many as 100,000 post cards to India’s prime minister and home minister demanding the immediate release of the 83-year-old Jesuit and others imprisoned in the case. The campaign also wants the draconian Unlawful Activities Prohibition Act (UAPA) repealed. Next, a campaign will be launched, “Christmas with Undertrials”, where anybody from any part of the world can send gifts to the undertrials.
Several prayer events have been organized on the eve of the bail order to be pronounced by the judge of the Sessions Court in Mumbai on 22 nd March 2021.
With the ongoing investigation in Elgar Parishad case, Fr. Stan Swamy, SJ was the 16th person to be arrested and charge sheeted under the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (under PM Narendra Modi’s BJP government). It should be noted that the 16 persons include some of India’s most respected scholars, lawyers, activists, including an aged radical poet.
Fr. Stan Swamy’s health condition had deteriorated and he was shifted to Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai. He had also tested positive for the coronavirus infection. This came after, on May 28, 2021 the Bombay High Court had ordered Fr. Stan to be moved to a hospital for 15 days.However, he died on Monday 5th July 2021 waiting for his bail.
Many Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s), prominent leaders of the nation raised voice against the atrocity and are demanding justice and release of Fr. Stan Swamy and other human rights defenders. There were protest in India and all around the world. Day by day, huge uproar is emerging from various corners of the nation berating the arrest and urging the release of Fr. Stan Swamy, SJ. Civil society members, intellectuals, social activists, religious groups and journalists have reacted vehemently against the arrest and judicial custody of 83-year-old Jesuit priest as well as demanded his immediate release from the custody by staging peaceful protests and fasting in many places.
The UNHCR chief Ms. Michelle Bachelet, urged the Government of India to defend the rights of human rights activists and NGOs and said, “India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of ground-breaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally. But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices,”.
Letters to release Fr. Stan Swamy have been written by Australia Province of the Jesuit Society to the High Commissioner of India, Jesuits in Britain to the High Commission of India, K.K.Ragesh to PM Modi (MP, Rajya Sabha), Vincent H Pala (MP, Lok Sabha), House of Commons, London, All Indian Christian Minority Font, Alpha Omega Christian Mahasang, Conference of Religious India,
Various statements have been circulated for Fr. Stan Swamy, SJ demanding justice by Karti P Chidambaram (MP, Lok Sabha), Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES Curia, Rome), Ranchi Catholic Church, Bishops of Nellore, Tamilnadu Bishops Council, and many others.
Some of the prominent leaders like Shashi Tharoor (MP,Lok Sabha), Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vajayan, journalist Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai (India Today), activists Harsh Mander, Shabnam Hashmi, Prof. Apoorv Anand, Economist Jean Dreze, in People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) people like Dr. Marianus Kujur, V. Suresh, Rupali Jadhav, Mihir Desai, Dayamani Barla, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, D.Raja, Sitaram Yechuri, Catholic Bishops and leaders and many more have demanded release of Fr. Stan Swamy, SJ.
Also, through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube and through signature campaigns, people from across the country and worldwide have been protesting. Citizens who are demanding the immediate release and supporting Fr. Stan Swamy, especially the youngsters had organized a “Twitter storm” on November 25 and 26 by tagging #FreeStanSwamy #JusticeforStanSwamy #FreeAll16BKVictims #FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners, #ScrapFarmActs, #FarmersDilliChalo, #FarmersProtest.
On November 26 th, the Constitution day of India was observed in various parts of the country as National Vigil for the Constitution and Human Rights Defenders. Sanjay Hegde, a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of India and Tehmina Arora, Director of the Alliance Defending Freedom extended their support to the cause and spoke at the event (via Zoom Call) organized in ISI New Delhi.