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Monday, March 4, 2024

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Monday, March 4, 2024

Remembering a Crusader

In October 2020, tribal rights activist and crusader for social justice, 84-year-old Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy working for tribals’ welfare in Ranchi, Jharkhand, was arrested by National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged connection with the Elgar Parishad case which was totally unfounded. The only crime he committed was his commitment to fight for the poor Adivasis of Jharkhand who were unscrupulously exploited by capitalists and industrialists. While in jail, he was very badly treated and deprived of even his basic needs like lifesaving drugs. When his health deteriorated very fast and he suffered cardiac arrest due to neglect and cruel treatment on May 29, 2021, he was admitted at a Mumbai hospital where he breathed his last on July 5, 2021. There was wide international criticism over the tragic death and inhuman treatment of Fr. Stan Swamy while he was in jail which was outrightly rejected by the government authorities. Eminent personalities from different backgrounds – senior Supreme Court advocate Kapil Sibal, general secretary Communist Party of India (CPI) D Raja, member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Kavita Krishnan, lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan – strongly voiced their protests. Even Justice Shinde of Bombay High Court had ordered for a magisterial inquiry into Fr. Swamy’s death since he was in custody of the state and an undertrial at the time of death but no one seemed to care at all.

On his first death anniversary, about 200 people belonging to various society groups had taken out a candle march in Kolkata to pay their respect and homage to him holding placards that said “Stan Swamy, we won’t forget your fight”. The US Congress adopted resolution commemorating the life of the rights defender and Jesuit priest on his first death anniversary and sought an independent investigation into his death reminding the Modi government that only a week back it had signed a resolution along with other G7 members to protect human rights. Earlier some US human rights agencies had seriously taken up the matter and registered their strong protest which was, however, rejected by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with flimsy reasons. Undeterred and undaunted, Congressman Juan Vargas from US state of California along with Representatives Andre Carson and James Mc Govern introduced the resolution which coincided with the first anniversary of Swamy’s death in police custody.

Sad and cruel death of Father Stan Swamy is indeed a blot on the glorious pages of India’s history which will forever remain in people’s memories no matter what the reasons given by government which tried to justify itself. Meanwhile, those responsible for his intolerable sufferings and untimely death will continue to live with guilty conscience which will prick them forever until their dying days. Nevertheless, it is never too late to deeply introspect and recant because as Plato observed, “Justice will be achieved only when those who are not injured feel as indignant as those who are”.

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