The death of the imprisoned Jesuit sparks outrage in India
An 84-year-old Jesuit died in custody. He dedicated his life to the indigenous forest dwellers of India. This angered activists who said the priest was Narendra Modi. Victims of ruthless suppression of dissidents.
Human Rights Watch South Asia director Minaksh Ganguli said that the “heartbreaking” circumstances of Father Stan Swami’s death on Monday exposed the gap between India’s claim to have democratic qualifications and the use of strict anti-terrorism laws to suppress critics The gap is getting bigger and bigger.
Ganguly said on Tuesday: “This is different from the progressive and free civil society that they boast about when they seek investment in India or seek India’s voice in global affairs.”
“The authorities use such strict laws because people will not be released on bail… They are using state power to punish anyone who they think disagrees with.”
Swami was arrested nine months ago on suspicion of ties to Maoist rebels. Although he was suffering from severe Parkinson’s disease, he could barely drink from a glass, but repeatedly refused bail. He has never been tried.
This priest is the oldest of a group of well-known human rights lawyers, scholars and writers Imprisoned under the anti-terrorism law Because of their advocacy for marginalized groups. These include indigenous tribes and Dalits, who were former untouchables in the Hindu caste system.
“Today, speech itself is a crime, speech itself is sedition,” said human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves (Colin Gonsalves). “The government believes that speech, even non-violent speech, is as lethal as the AK-47.”
Coming from a South Indian Catholic family, Swami has been the director of the Indian Social Institute run by the Jesuits in Bangalore for 11 years, which trains grassroots organizers working with marginalized communities. In 1986, the gentle-speaking priest moved to remote eastern India to support the indigenous forest dwellers, or Adivasis, They are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.
For 34 years, Swamy has been committed to helping tribal groups maintain their legal rights, including opposition to powerful corporate and political interests that desire to exploit tribal land rich in minerals. But as conflicts between tribal communities and resource-poor countries intensify, activists say the pastor is increasingly seen as a troublemaker.
“The interest of the company is to seize this land Adivasis, This is his challenge,” said Father Joseph Xavier, director of ISI. “He never advocated any violence. He advocates peace. But he asked the government to bring justice to the tribe. “
In 2017, Swami filed a public interest lawsuit, highlighting the plight of the alleged Maoist insurgents being held for many years without trial.
Swamy was arrested in a night raid at his home on October 8, when the first wave of coronavirus in India was at its peak. He was accused of ties to the Maoists, flew to Mumbai and was sent to the overcrowded Taloja prison.
Like many other activists and political dissidents who were sentenced to jail while awaiting trial, Swami was detained under the Illegal Activities Prevention Act, which is intended for mass casualty terrorist attacks.
The law abolished the presumption of innocence, and the lawyer said it made it almost impossible for the defendant to obtain bail.
Many analysts believe that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Narendra Modi) used strict national security legislation against prominent activists, including anti-terrorism and sedition laws, to prevent Indians from participating. Political activism Or openly oppose government policies.
“They have a very bad attitude towards him, and they use this as an example to suppress any form of dissent,” said Father Fraser Mascarenhas, a former student of Swami. “Their purpose is to intimidate people and think they will be treated the same.”
The judges began to fight back.Last month, the Delhi High Court Bail granted Three student activists were detained for a year for protesting against India’s new citizenship rules.
The judges wrote: “In the minds of the state, out of the anxiety of suppressing dissent, the line between the right to protest and terrorist activities guaranteed by the Constitution seems to be blurred.” It will be a sad day.”
At the last bail hearing in May, Swami described the deterioration of his health in prison and said that he could barely eat or bathe without help. He requested bail to return home and predicted that he would die in prison “soon”. A few weeks later, he tested positive for Covid-19.
Gonçalves said: “Everyone knows that he is too sick to survive like this, and that his health is getting worse.” “This is a deliberate death-this is the murder of a person for refusing bail. That’s how I see it.”