Written by Madhav Bahl, a grade 9 student.
Stanislaus Lourduswamy, or Fr. Stan Swamy was a a member of the Society of Jesus and a tribal rights activist. He died on the 5th of July at the age of 84. At the time of his death, Swamy was in prison under charges filed by the National Investigation Agency: the oldest person ever to be arrested under the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act.
Fr. Stan Swamy was a Catholic priest and also an ordinary Indian who believed in helping the needy and working for the rights of the tribals and indigenous peoples. Later, he also championed the plight of people who are in prison awaiting trial for a crime in India who remain imprisoned without trial for years.
A bit about his life and career
Fr. Stan Swamy was born in Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu on 26th April 1937. He studied Theology and received a Master’s Degree in the Philippines for Sociology. His education paved the way for his work among the tribals and the dispossessed.
His first breakthrough came when he became the director of Jesuit Indian Social Institute in Bangalore in 1975. He was critical of many laws and the slow implementation of them, for example, the non-implementation of the setting up of the Tribal Advisory Council according to the provision of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
In an interview, Fr. Stan said that the arrest and harassment of activists, intellectuals, writers, basically anyone who criticised the government was a process, and that his arrest was the same. He felt that he was not a silent spectator and was ready to pay the price for speaking out his mind.
While lodged in Taloja Central Jail, Fr. Swamy talked about the sad plight of people who are in prison awaiting trial for a crime. Many don’t know why they have been imprisoned and spend years behind bars.
What’s the Bhima Koregaon case of 2018
On January 1st, 2018, a massive gathering of Dalit and Mahar communities at Bhima Koregaon was attacked and resulted in the death of one and injuries to many. Bhima Koregaon in Pune is a commemorative site of the 1818 battle fought between the East India Company and Peshwa Baji Rao II who was the ruler of the Maratha kingdom. The Mahar soldiers in the 800-strong Army of East India Company defeated the much bigger and stronger Maratha army of the Peshwa at Koregaon. The British erected a monument to remember the Mahar soldiers who died in the Battle of Koregaon. Since then, every year Mahars gather at Bhima Koregaon to remember the battle.
The violence in Bhim Koregaon in 2018 erupted as right-wing Hindus objected to a celebration of the defeat of the Peshwa.
Fr. Stan Swamy’s imprisonment
The government made many arrests. 80-year-old Fr. Stan Swamy was arrested by the Pune Police. He was accused of being a Maoist sympathizer and the mastermind behind the violence. He was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 by the National Investigation Agency. Human rights activists, intellectuals, and politicians across the country criticised the arrest of Fr. Stan Swamy.
Imprisoned, ill and weak, Fr. Stan Swamy was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and fell down a number of times in prison. By May 2021, Fr. Swamy was seriously ill. He requested the court to grant him interim bail to back to Ranchi. But then, he was admitted to Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai where he got Covid.
Fr. Stan Swamy passed away on 5th July 2021 just before his bail hearing.
A man who made the welfare of the tribals his life’s mission, Fr. Stan Swamy was never afraid to stand up to injustice. He will be an inspiration to all those who value democracy and the rights of ordinary people. Justices SS Shinde and N J Jamadar, who presided on his Bail Plea hearing expressed great respect for Fr. Stan Swamy and called him a wonderful person. He will be remembered as a great activist.
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