One Jesuit priest and many others on Tuesday walked for the cause for which another Jesuit priest lived and died.
Father Felix Raj, vice-chancellor of St Xavier’s University, was part of a candlelight rally to commemorate a year of the death of Father Stan Swamy. On July 5, last year, the 84-year-old Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist died in judicial custody in Mumbai.
“Today, we are commemorating the first death anniversary of Father Stan Swamy, a tribal activist who took the risk of sacrificing his life.... Whole world knows how he was arrested and treated in jail. Even before getting justice, he passed away. Today, we are remembering the cause for which he lived and died,” Father Felix Raj told this newspaper.
“We want to send out a message to our brothers and sisters… that we remember an apostle like him. Because he is not alone. There are many people who suffer for a greater cause. We want to send out a message that we stand for justice, we stand for peace,” he said.
Father Stan Swamy was arrested in October 2020 along with poets, journalists, teachers and lawyers in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case. When arrested, he was ailing but active. He had to move court to get a straw without which he could not drink water.
He waited for bail for nine months after his arrest by the National Investigation Agency. He died before the medical bail application could be heard.
The rally, held under the banners of Kolkata Nagarik Sammelan (Calcutta Citizens’ Forum) and Paschim Banga Samajik Nyay Mancha (Bengal Social Justice Platform), started from Park Circus Maidan and continued till Lady Brabourne College before turning back.
Debesh Das, a professor of JU and one of the organisers, said: “We must remember his pain and suffering. We must not forget the institutional murder.”
Speakers pointed out how a year since the priest’s death was “marked by continued abuse of human rights by the State”.
Jael Silliman, teacher and women’s rights activist, said the arrest of Teesta Setalvad and Mohammed Zubair showed that “things have only gone south in the past one year”.
Alakesh Das, CPM leader and general secretary of the Mancha, said the “murder” of Stan Swamy and the arrests of dissenters were “a warning from the State. If you are not loyal to the State, the State will come after you”.
Citing the Elgaar Parishad case, CPM leader Fuad Halim said: “For the first time in India, victims’ computers were tampered with by the State. False evidence was planted inside laptops. This is the worst form of cyber crime. Father Stan Swamy was a victim of such a false case. The State forced him to die in jail.”