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Jesuits continue to demand release of 84-year-old priest imprisoned in India

Eighty-four-year-old Jesuit Fr. Stan Swamy, the voice of marginalized indigenous people in India, has been imprisoned near Mumbai since his arrest on Oct. 8, 2020. And on March 22, 2021, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) special court denied him bail, despite his severe case of Parkinson’s disease.

Jesuit Priest and Human Rights Activist
“We are all aware of how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, student leaders—they are all put into jail just because they’ve expressed their dissent, or raised questions about the ruling powers of India.”

Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, Society of Jesus
“Every day there are protests, campaigns, rallies, and students and young people—everybody–kind of raising their voices all over the country, not only in the part where he was living.”

Fr. Xavier knows Fr. Stan well. He explains that Fr. Stan and 15 other human rights activists were charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for supposedly having links with extremist groups.

Fr. Xavier says the UAPA is frequently amended to suit the government’s interests. He explains that between 2015 and 2018 nearly 4,000 people were arrested under this act.

Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, Society of Jesus
“Even individuals can be arrested under this act, and without reason, and they can be kept in the prison without any bail, without any trial for as long as they wish.

The citizen is considered an enemy in the country, which is absolutely unacceptable. We as Jesuits, we want to stand with Stan.”

Fr. Stan has remained in touch with his Jesuit brothers through phone calls and letters. In one of the letters, he describes the struggles of his first few days in Taloja prison: severe arthritis, having to make several requests for a cot, adjusting to prison life, limited contact with the outside world.

Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, Society of Jesus
“He was a friend of the poor and the Adivasis and the Dalits. A man who stood for them and today is arrested. So they were shocked. Yes, absolutely.”

Fr. Xavier says Fr. Stan’s lawyers are preparing to appeal to a higher court in India, for the freedom of a man unafraid to stand up to power and injustice.