Indian MP says Jesuit died in jail after his rights violated
Shashi Tharoor is a former UN official currently in the race to become the president of the opposition Congress party
The human rights of Indian Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, who died in judicial custody, were violated even though he fought for the rights of poor indigenous people, a senior opposition leader says.
Shashi Tharoor, a Member of Parliament who is in the electoral race to become the next chief of the opposition Congress party, was speaking at the Father Stan Swamy Memorial Lecture on, ‘Are Human Rights Universal?’ in Mumbai city on Oct. 8.
A former UN diplomat and former federal minister, Tharoor said that “the late activist priest’s death in judicial custody had brought the world’s attention to his work and commitment.”
The 84-year-old Jesuit priest died as an undertrial while undergoing treatment in a Catholic-managed private hospital in Mumbai on July 5, 2021, after his arrest alleging involvement in the mob violence during the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle victory near Pune city in western Maharashtra state on Jan. 1, 2018.
Father Swamy was jailed on Oct. 9, 2020, a day after he was arrested at his home in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India. He was charged with sedition for allegedly collaborating with the outlawed Maoist rebels to overthrow the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led federal government in the country.
The priest who suffered from Covid-19 and other aged-related ailments was admitted to the hospital rather late following an order of the Bombay High Court, the top court in the state, after his pleas to the special court seeking bail for medical treatment were rejected.
Recalling the tragic death of Father Swamy as an undertrial without being convicted, Tharoor said the “system was responsible for his death though he had made extraordinary contributions.”
He pointed out the “unworthy endeavors on the part of his critics to dehumanize him” while admitting that he himself was ignorant of the Jesuit priest’s real contributions.
Father Frazer Mascarenhas, a Jesuit designated as Father Swamy’s next of kin by the Bombay High Court, also spoke on the occasion.
“It was unbelievable that Father Swamy would have advocated violence. He was treated badly in jail. We are appealing to the court for two reasons – one is to exonerate him and second to investigate the cause of his death,” he said.
Father Mascarenhas, a former principal of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, said Father Swamy had a very good grip on social sciences and he used it for uplifting poor the indigenous people in Jharkhand.
“Father Swamy was fully committed to human rights, and it was unfortunate that the entire case against him was a violation of human rights,” he said.
Advocate Mathew Antony, the founder of the Indasa Foundation and one of the organizers of the lecture, told UCA News that Father Swamy’s life should inspire all to fight for the rights of the lesser privileged.
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