Global movement demands the release of Fr Stan Swamy SJ on Human Rights Day
An International campaign calling for Fr. Stan Swamy SJ’s freedom on International Human Rights Day has been launched.
The 83-year-old priest and human rights activist, who also suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has currently spent 63 days in prison.
Fr Stan was arrested on 8 October by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India, He has been falsely accused of having personal links with a banned extremist Maoist group. Today, Jesuits and lay workers around the world have been determinedly campaigning for the Indian government to safeguard Fr. Stan’s health and immediately release him from prison.
The International Solidarity Group, with member organisations in Europe, North America and South America, has been raising awareness about Fr Stan’s situation and building support around the world through various campaigning activities. The group has organised an online campaign for Fr Stan and sent open letters to politicians across the globe encouraging them to take immediate action.
Fr Xavier Jeyaraj, President of Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat says, “While humanity seems to be bubbling inside and outside the prison, I am deeply pained by the silence of the state, the inhuman attitude of NIA and the politically biased Indian judiciary. Nevertheless, we shall continue to stand in solidarity and campaign for Fr Stan with greater enthusiasm. We call all nations to protect the human rights and dignity of every individual.”
Jesuits and lay workers in London have taken further action and protested outside the High Commission of India today. The protest aims to draw attention to the Indian Government’s detention of Fr Stan on Human Rights Day. This is the second silent protest organised by Jesuit Missions demanding Fr Stan’s release this year.
Fr Damian Howard SJ, the Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, said: “The imprisonment of Fr Stan Swamy is an issue we cannot ignore. Fr Stan Swamy spent four decades working for the rights of indigenous people. He has served as the Director of two human rights organisations in India and has worked tirelessly for the rights of indigenous communities that are so often ignored by the Indian Government. He has spent years defending the rights of others. It is our duty to defend him now.”
In the UK, Jesuit Missions supporters have been sending letters to their Members of Parliament since Fr Stan’s imprisonment. The campaign has been recognised by several MPs who have put forward their questions about the treatment of Fr Stan to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) Affairs, Rt Hon Dominic Raab.
The FCDO has said that officials raised Fr Stan’s case with the High Commission of India on 12 November. On 9 October, British High Commission officials in New Delhi highlighted to the Ministry of Home Affairs the impact of recent amendments to Indian security legislation on activists and human rights campaigners in India.
Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions, said, “We are at critical stage of the campaign for Fr Stan. He is in poor health, and his condition is deteriorating. The risk of contracting COVID in prison is a grave existential threat to Fr Stan. We must keep up the pressure on the Indian government to release Fr Stan and the other human rights activists who are being held.”
There have also been many protests throughout India since Fr Stan and 15 other human right activists who have been arrested. More recently, a digital campaign broke out across India for Fr Stan, resulting in hundreds of sipper cups and straws being sent to the prison where Fr Stan is detained. This follows the decision of the courts to reject Fr Stan’s request to use a sipper cup without which he cannot drink water independently because of his Parkinson’s disease.