Stand with Stan: Christian groups demand immediate release of the activist-priest

Activists and civil society groups wonder if Stan Swamy's arrest is an attempt to silence voice of Tribal rights

Stan swamy
Image: PTI

The Christian community of India is uniting in its demand for the release of tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from his from his home in Bagaicha, Ranchi, at night on October 8 on trumped up charges of involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case. 

The oldest person to be questioned and arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, Fr. Stan, has been sent to judicial custody until October 23 by a Special NIA court on October 9. Since the news of his arrest first broke, secular citizens, activists, religious and secular groups have all spoken in one voice in solidarity with Fr. Stan. 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has expressed “deep sorrow and anguish” at his arrest and said Fr. Stan “has spent a major portion of his life giving yeoman service to the tribals and the downtrodden in the state of Jharkhand. According to our reports Fr. Stan has for decades been working to protect the rights of the Adivasis, especially their land rights. This could have worked against the interests of certain people. When questioned during the months of July- August 2020 by authorities, Fr Stan Swamy has fully cooperated with Investigating Agencies and has provided detailed statements, claiming to be innocent in the case.”

The CBCI stated that it was “difficult to comprehend the plight of an octogenarian with several morbidities, like Fr Stan Swamy to have to undergo such difficulties during this pandemic in which even a normal healthy person would hesitate to travel or would never travel risking one’s life.”

The CBCI has made a strong appeal to the authorities to immediately release Fr Stan Swamy and to permit him to go to his residence. “The Catholic Community has always been lauded by all as a body of loyal, law abiding and service minded citizens of Mother India. The community has always been contributing to nation building and continues to collaborate with the government in working for the common good of all Indians and the progress of our nation. We earnestly urge that the rights, duties and privileges of all citizens are duly safeguarded, and peace and harmony prevail among all,” stated CBCI.

Issued by Archbishop Felix Machado, secretary general CBCI, the statement reiterates that the “Catholic Church is very grateful to all people of goodwill, people from all walks of life, belonging to all religions, and all institutions that have come out in an overwhelming support for Fr Stan Swamy’s immediate release and safe return to his residence.”

The All India Catholic Union (AICU), formed in 1919, representing the Catholic Laity also issued a strong statement of solidarity. The AICU national president Lancy D Cunha, has called for the immediate release of Fr Stan Swamy. The AICU, which speaks for the 1.6 core ordinary Catholics in the country, has “expressed its apprehensions that the arrest of the frail, old and ailing activist in the midst of the extraordinary situation created by the Corona pandemic, seems part of a project to silence dissent and protest against alienation of the natural and forest resources of the Tribals.”

Catholic Union national president Lancy D’Cunha said the ordinary Catholic women and men stood in solidarity with Fr. Stan, a national hero, and with the country’s Tribals whose struggles the Jesuit priest had espoused for more than half a century. Every citizen of India who has respect for the constitution and the rights of the poor, the Dalits, the disposed and the Tribals,makes common cause with these peoples’ movements, Mr D’Cunha .

The AICU has also expressed its “happiness that the solidarity for Fr Stan has extended far beyond the Christian community and the Tribals, who have agitated on the roads in Ranchi and other places. Civil society movements in India and abroad have expressed the concern at the manner in which Fr. Stan was picked up after several months of harassment, raids, and questionings.”



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