Indian Catholics welcome call for independent probe into death of Stan Swamy

Jesuit priest Cedric Prakash said the resolution in the US Congress “points to the fact” that the death of Father Swamy “was nothing short of ‘institutional murder’”

Catholics in India welcomed the call of the US Congress for an independent investigation into the death of Jesuit priest Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Stan Swamy.

Jesuit priest Cedric Prakash said the resolution in the US Congress “points to the fact” that the death of Father Swamy “was nothing short of ‘institutional murder.’”

He said the Indian government has a “pathetic record on human rights” and human rights defenders are at the receiving end of “a brutal and inhumane system.”

Congressman Juan Vargas of California has earlier introduced a resolution in the US Congress to seek an independent investigation into the death of Father Swamy.

Vargas made the announcement at a webinar titled “Persecution of Religious Minorities and their Defenders in India: Commemorating Father Stan’s Death in Custody” on July 5, first anniversary of the priest’s death.

“I am appalled by the abuse Father Stan faced while in custody. No one who fights for human rights should face such violence and neglect,” said the American legislator.

India, however, had repeatedly rejected international criticism over the death of the priest and other alleged human rights violations.

K P Fabian, India’s former ambassador to Italy, said human rights is “not an internal matter.”

“No democratic government can hide its democratic deficit by using … the ‘internal matter’ argument,” said the former diplomat, adding that it is not only the executive department that has abused its powers but even the judiciary.

He said the Indian Supreme Court “has failed the nation.”

“I want to thank Congressman Juan Vargas for drawing attention to this matter,” said Fabian.

Image of Father Stan Swamy, SJ, courtesy of Matters India

Rights activist John Dayal said several European and American agencies have already noted the state of impunity when it comes to attacks on religious minorities in the country.

Members of the European Parliament have earlier written to India’s political leaders expressing concern over Father Swamy’s death and the harassment of human rights defenders.

“We are concerned about the increasingly systematic use of prolong pre-trial detention of human rights defenders in India, often in crowded and unsanitary prisons,” said the group.

The European lawmakers said they are worried about the recent arrest and “judicial harassment” of rights activist Teesta Setalvad that was seen as “a reprisal for supporting the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.”

“We call on the president of India to launch an investigation and end the harassment of human rights defenders,” read the letter from the European legislators.

The 84-year-old Father Swamy, whose death anniversary was commemorated on July 5, suffered from Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.

He was lodged in Taloja Central Jail in Mumbai after he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Ranchi, Jharkhand in October 2020 under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

Swamy was admitted on May 29, 2021, in a Mumbai hospital, a day after he suffered a cardiac arrest and was put on the ventilator.

Father Swamy was arrested by the NIA from Ranchi, Jharkhand, on October 8, 2020, under the stringent UAPA in connection with the Elgar Parishad case and lodged at the Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai.

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