Fr Stan Swamy SJ, the Indian Jesuit who spent his life working for the rights of marginalised ethnic groups has died in hospital. He has spent the last months of his life in prison, where he was awaiting trial for charges of being affiliated to terrorist organisations.
Several attempts were made to have Fr Swamy released on bail on medical grounds, as the 84-year-old had advanced Parkinson’s disease and had hearing and mobility difficulties, which were exacerbated by his spell in an overcrowded prison.
The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Irish Jesuits International and the Irish Jesuit Province joined with the international Jesuit network campaigning for his release. However, despite our best efforts he was only released on a temporary basis to a hospital after he contracted Covid-19.
Tributes have been paid to Fr Swamy from both the international Jesuit community and Indian human rights defenders.
In a statement on July 5th, the Jesuit Provincial of India, Stanislaus D’Souza SJ spoke of the Jesuit community’s “deep sense of anguish, pain and hope” on learning of the death of Fr Swamy. He said that the Society of Jesus “recommits itself to take forward the legacy of Fr Stan in its mission of justice and reconciliation”.
Indian lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan said it was “nothing less than murder by the state of one of the gentlest and kindest men I have known. Unfortunately our judicial system is also complicit in this.”
Harsh Mander, a prominent activist, described Swamy as “devoted to selfless defence of Adivasi [indigenous] rights, gentle, brave. Even from prison he grieved not for himself but injustice to poor prisoners.”
Fr Swamy’s funeral mass takes place today at 11.15am [Irish Time} and can be viewed on YouTube