People express shock on Father Stan Swamy's death
People from all walks of life expressed shock on the death of Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy in a Mumbai hospital on Monday. Fr Stan, 84, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in 2020 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case.
While paying glowing tributes to Fr Stan, they also condemned the treatment meted out to him by the central agency and the jail authorities.
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren tweeted: “Shocked to learn about the demise of Father Stan Swamy. He dedicated his life working for tribal rights. I had strongly opposed his arrest and incarceration.”
“The Union government should be answerable for absolute apathy and non-provision of timely medical services, leading to his death,” Soren added.
Shocked to learn about the demise of Father Stan Swamy. He dedicated his life working for tribal rights. I had strongly opposed his arrest & incarceration. The Union Govt should be answerable for absolute apathy & non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death.— Hemant Soren (@HemantSorenJMM) July 5, 2021
Vasvi Kiro, former member of the Jharkhand Women’s Commission who knew Fr Stan closely, said: “Stan who belonged to Tamil Nadu worked for the demand of jal (water), jangal (forest) and zameen (land) of the tribals of Jharkhand, reminding us of Che Guevara who also went to fight for people of a different country.”
“Knowing him for a long time, I know for sure he never went to that area, let alone getting involved in the Bhima Koregaon case,” she added.
Kiro alleged the central government “murdered” a 84-year-old priest who was suffering from several ailments “by falsely implicating him in a case he was never involved in and denying him proper treatment when he needed it most”.
“The powers that be are always against those siding with the tribals,” she further said, reminding that “even Birsa Munda was murdered in jail in 1900”.
Miners’ rights activist Xavier Dias said: “Life was his key word. Stan fought for the right of life so that everyone gets the joy of life. I never found him compromising on this.”
Dias knew Fr Stan since mid-seventies. Dias said he met him when he was a student in Bangalore and Stan was the director of Indian Social Institute there.
JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said: “Everyone respected him and no one believes Father Stan Swamy could be involved in that case. It was a part of the design of the central government for suppressing the intellectuals and dedicated workers who fight for the causes of the oppressed.”
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a joint forum of activists and NGOs that Fr Stan helped to form, said in a statement: “His death is the result of murder by state. We hold the NIA and the central government wholly responsible and strongly condemn their role in Stan’s death, which once again exposes the fascist face of the BJP government at the Centre.”
Describing Fr Stan as a fighter for justice and a symbol of courage, Archbishop Felix Toppo and auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, in a statement issued on behalf of the Ranchi Catholic Archdiocese, said: “The fact that this sick man suffering with Parkinson’s disease was arrested at the age of 84, refused bail for over seven months, not even allowed a sipper and finally contracted Covid in jail itself is a sad reflection on those who got the innocent man arrested and the courts that refused him bail.”
Carnatic musician and culture critic-activist T.M. Krishna, said in a Facebook post: “Just heard that Stan Swamy passed away. The Indian Government and our insensitive Judiciary are responsible for all that he went through towards the end of his life.”
“An 84-year-old person suffering from Parkinson’s disease who was denied even a straw and sipper, had to go to court for just that and still wait for over a month to be given that little aid. We are a vile nation,” added Krishna.
DMK MP Kanimozhi tweeted: “Poraligal Vithaikapadugirargal, Puthaikapaduvathillai (Fighters are sown, not buried),” along with a picture of the priest.
“Stan Swamy (84), who suffered from Parkinson’s, was arrested by the BJP government as Anti-national. His health conditions were never considered. He slipped into coma and passed away,” Kanimozhi, who is also the DMK women’s wing secretary, added.
Stan Swami (84) who suffered from Parkinson’s was arrested by the BJP government as Anti-national. His health conditions were never considered. He slipped into coma and passed away.— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) July 5, 2021
போராளிகள் விதைக்கப்படுகிறார்கள் புதைக்கப்படுவதில்லை.#StanSwamy pic.twitter.com/a8Ko8tfks5
The United Christian Forum of North East India on Monday expressed its deep pain and anguish at the demise of Fr Stan.
The forum said he was “falsely” implicated, imprisoned and “made” to suffer because of his mission and work among the Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised communities, as he believed, that the poor must have life and life to the full, with honour and dignity, as enshrined in the Constitution. Northeast has over 78 lakh Christians. Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya are Christian-dominated states.
While offering their condolences to those who stood by Fr Stan and prayed for him during this “moment of trial and suffering”, forum spokesperson Allen Brooks said community members have pledged to recommit themselves to take forward the legacy of Fr Stan and to “work” for peace, justice and reconciliation.
Additional reporting by M.R. Venkatesh from Chennai and Umanand Jaiswal from Guwahati