A protest against the imprisonment of an 83-year-old Jesuit priest in India has taken place in London.
Protesters with UK-based Jesuit Missions met outside the Indian High Commission in London on International Human Rights Day, to raise the plight of Fr Stan Swamy, an elderly Jesuit priest who suffers from Parkinson’s.
He was taken to Taloja Jail near Mumbai, where he has been denied bail ever since.
Protestors met outside the Indian High Commission in London with signs bearing the slogans Justice for Stan, Free Fr Stan Swamy and #StandwithStan. Jesuit Missions Director Paul Chitnis described the protest as a “critical stage of the campaign for Fr Stan” and warned that an extended jail stay could prove fatal to the ailing priest. “He is in poor health, and his condition is deteriorating,” he said. “The risk of contracting COVID in prison is a grave existential threat to Fr Stan.”
Fr Swamy has worked tirelessly for over three decades to protect India’s indigenous Adivasi people against mining corporations, who’s plans to take over mineral rich Adivasi land in the East Indian state of Jharkhand would displace millions of homes. Mervyn Thomas, Founder President of human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide, hailed him as a “brave defender of human rights”.
The NIA alleges Fr Swamy has links to far-left Maoist terrorist groups operating in Jharkhand. After being charged under the Unlawful Activities Act, Fr Stan was expected to be held until 23 October but was denied bail on that date. Thomas protested Fr Swamy having “now spent over two months in prison on completely unfounded charged, despite his age and ill-health”.
Friday’s protest was the second organised by Jesuit Missions and followed international calls for Father Swamy’s release, including a Change.org petition with almost 60,000 signatures. Even Hemant Soren, the chief minister for Jharkhand where Fr Stan was arrested, has spoken out against his incarceration.
“We must keep up the pressure on the Indian government to release Fr Stan and the other human rights activists who are being held,” Chitnis said following Friday’s protest.
Speaking on behalf of CSW, Thomas made a similar statement. He said: “We urge the international community to demonstrate a robust commitment to the defence of human rights by raising Father Swamy’s case with the Indian authorities as a matter of urgency.”