Remarks at IUDF meeting of remembrance of Father Stan Swamy by George Abraham 

Remarks at IUDF meeting of remembrance of Father Stan Swamy by George Abraham

First, let me welcome all of you to today’s gathering.

‘We are here today to mourn the loss of a great son of India. Father Stan Swamy, who has dedicated his life to the upliftment of the poor and marginalized, is no more. However, we have gathered here today to pay tribute to this great soul and celebrate his life.

The body of the 84-year-old Indian Jesuit priest Stan Swamy died under detention due to covid 19 complications in the Holy family hospital in Mumbai.  Although he was free from covid, the courts asked to follow the prison rules, and he had to be cremated.

We can only think of Father Stan Swamy’s detention with a deep sense of anguish, pain, and helplessness. As I have stated in the press release, ‘it is a dark day for democracy in India, and the national leadership and members of the judiciary should hang their heads in shame. Father Swamy’s detention and treatment in prison that led to his death is a blot on the nation’s consciousness and a travesty of justice.

As you know, he was held in detention under the draconian law called UAPA, which is supposed to be used against terrorists. However, a man who lived in a single room all his life worked hard for justice for the Tribals and Adivasis and who at the age of 83 suffered from Parkinson’s disease, who even had difficulty drinking water without a sipper becoming a threat to India’s national security?

His repeated bail requests were denied. He even had to go to court for permission for a straw to drink water. In his last bail hearing, Swamy has predicted his own death. He said, “I would rather suffer, possibly die here very shortly if this were to go on.” he told that to judges. Why, one must ask, was he removed to separate cell away from others arrested with him who were helping him on his daily routines? Why such a ghastly treatment for a frail old man? Fr. Swamy himself stated his health deteriorated steadily in the days he was in prison. Even after he has contacted Covid, it took days before he was taken to a hospital.

Was it anything other than Institutional murder?  He had to be silenced to promote the interests of the crony capitalists and the vested political interests behind it.  Is there any ounce of humanity left with the authorities in India today?

What happened to the so-called independent judiciary? Where is the principle of presumption of innocence? Normally, Bail is denied to people against flight risks, influencing the witnesses, or for potential tampering of evidence. Does Fr. Stan Swamy’s bail denial fits into any one of these categories?  However, the courts could not gather enough courage to do justice to this frail old man.  I am incredibly sad to say that it is our India today.

Fr. Stan has repeatedly stated he has never been to Bhima Koregaon, where the riots took place. In a video message, he said prominent intellectuals, writers, poets are all put into jail because they have expressed dissent.

Today, let us remember those who are still in prison, including Sudha Bharadwaj, facing similar charges. The government appears to be in no hurry to try them but keep them in jail. Sudha Bharadwaj is facing serious health issues, and IUDF demands that they all should be released on bail awaiting charges.

India is about to celebrate its 75th Independence Day.  Our founding fathers built democratic institutions that stood the test of time. They were institutions to protect democracy, freedom, individual liberty, equal justice under law. However, those institutions are increasingly under attack and are being diminished.  Today, anyone who dares to criticize the authorities is in danger of being termed anti-national.

Indians are the biggest segment of economic refugees in the world. No matter where we go, we want our freedom, culture, and dignity preserved. If that is so, we also have an obligation to defend those whose freedoms are violated back at home. The question now is are we getting lackadaisical in defending that freedom.

Ronald Reagan:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

As Cedric Prakash said, Fr. Stan Swamy transcended narrow confines of ethnicity and religion. May God bless his soul.

Thank you.