Kolkata: On the first death anniversary of Father Stan Swamy, widely known as an ‘institutional murder’, the tribal rights defender was remembered in several parts of the country, including in Kolkata in West Bengal, and Ranchi and Dumka in Jharkhand. Tributes were paid and the commemorations took place through candlelight marches and memorial lectures in several places.
The eleven co-accused in the Bhima-Koregaon (Elgaar Parishad) case also observed a day-long fast at the Taloja Prison in Mumbai in protest against the death of a co-accused Jesuit priest: Stan Swamy.
In Kolkata, a silent candle march was held between Park Circus Maidan to Lady Brabourne College under the banner of Kolkata Nagarik Sammelan and Pashchim Banga Smajik Nayay Mancha. It was attended by social activists, political leaders and Jesuits.
The 84-year-old Swamy, a tribal rights activist based in Ranchi, was accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case and the National Investigative Agency (NIA) took the octogenarian to Mumbai. A Parkinson’s patient, Swamy did not even get a straw to drink for several months, despite requests. It was given to him only after a nationwide hue and cry. Later, he suffered from Covid-19 but did not get proper treatment. Only after a serious deterioration in his health did the court intervene; he was shifted to a hospital in a critical condition. He breathed his last on July 5, 2021.
When asked how did India miss the crusader, Father Felix Raj, the Vice-Chancellor of St Xavier University and a Jesuit, who was leading the candlelight protest in Kolkata told eNewsroom, “India has lost a committed Indian. An Indian who worked for tribal development, that is, for nation development. He wanted to bring marginalised people to the forefront. We have lost someone who used to make a serious analysis of grassroots problems. We have lost a Jesuit. The tragedy just cannot be accepted.”
Father Raj also said that Father Stan was a man who stood for justice, human rights and humanity. “It is our shame, India’s shame. He was treated inhumanely both in jail and outside. No one should treat any human being like that. He was treated with such inhumanity at the age of 85,” he said. “He got an international award from a Geneva group. He had become an international figure. People are still concerned and ask why did this happen to him?”
CPM leader Dr Fuad Halim, another participant in the march, told eNewsroom, “India will miss a person who was dedicated to the cause of backward classes, especially the Adivasis. India will miss a courageous person because he spoke his mind. And India will miss an investigation, an unbiased investigation — why was Father Stan Swamy arrested?”
“One has to keep in mind other factors. In a parallel case in India, you won’t find that evidence was planted in computers and laptops using the latest technology and then using intimidating evidence to prosecute innocents. This farce of an investigation is going on. Indians are waiting for the judiciary to intervene and bring clarity,” Dr Halim said.
The CPM leader pointed out, “A person who was the central voice of Adivasis has been silenced. His last days were spent in jail in a pathetic condition. The forces had it in the back of their mind that they would never be able to prosecute Father Swamy. So these important questions need to be answered, hence we are asking them today on the streets.”
A well-known activist in Kolkata, Manzar Jameel, said, “The state is turning into a Police-State, and, unfortunately, extraordinary people from different fields are behind bars in India. The government is stopping them from doing their work, not allowing and them to reach the people on the ground. India has always been a place of peace and people from different faith and culture came here and owned the country. We condemn this continuous oppression.”
Jameel added, “The most unfortunate part is that the government has made a nexus with the executive and judiciary. So honest and brave people like Umar Khalid, Siddiqui Kappan, Teesta Setalvad and Mohammed Zubair are rotting in jail on fake charges, while alleged criminals like Sadhvi Pragya, Kuldeep Senger, Sambhu Regar have not been punished.”