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Lesson from Stand with Stan campaign

  • 10 November 2021
It has been over a year since Fr Stan Swamy was unfairly imprisoned by the Indian Government. Valeria Méndez de Vigo, Network, Advocacy and Communication Coordinator at Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, explores what lessons we can learn from the global campaign that aimed to free Fr Stan.


Fr Stan Swamy was arrested on 8 October. The 83-year-old priest and human rights activist, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease was falsely accused of having personal links with a banned extremist Maoist group. Fr Stan was put into prison without a trial. 15 other human rights activists were arrested across India on the same date, with the same charge.

In an attempt to free Fr Stan Swamy, Jesuits and lay workers around the world determinedly campaigned 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, raised awareness about Fr Stan’s situation and built support around the world through various campaigning activities. The group organised an online campaign for Fr Stan and sent open letters to politicians across the globe encouraging them to take immediate action.

On 5 July 2021, Dr Stanislaus D’Souza SJ, the Jesuit Provincial of India announced; “With a deep sense of pain, anguish and hope we have surrendered Fr Stan Swamy, aged 84, to his eternal abode.”

His case highlighted the broken injustice system of India and the governments’ dangerous reaction to those wishing to speak freely on injustice issues.

Lessons learnt

Valeria expresses in her piece that, “Although the campaign has helped to raise awareness regarding Fr Stan Swamy and human rights defenders and the erosion of democracy and rights in India and to initiate a global solidarity movement, it did not achieve its objective of getting Stan Swamy released on bail. Despite continued action and mobilisation, Fr Stan Swamy died in judicial custody and those imprisoned by the Bhima Koregaon case remain in jail as of today. This fact forces us to reflect on what more can or should be done to achieve the intended objectives.”

Valeria explores what went well when campaigning for Fr Stan and what could’ve been done to push the campaign further. Read all 6 points here.

To conclude, Valeria says, “Stan Swamy’s death in custody sparked a genuine movement of appreciation for his life and work in India and around the world, as well as outrage at the injustice done, a symptom of the very serious erosion of democracy in India today. Today actions continue to demand reparations for Stan’s memory, the investigation and release of Bhima Koregaon human rights defenders and political prisoners, and the rejection of the draconian UAPA and other laws.”

Discover Valeria’s piece, ‘Some lessons learnt from global campaigns: The case of Fr. Stan Swamy SJ and human rights defenders in India’ here.


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