Christians hail US lawmakers’ support for India’s Stan Swamy

Christian leaders in India have hailed three US lawmakers’ demand for an independent probe into the situation that led to the death of Jesuit activist Father Stan Swamy as a prisoner three years ago.

Jul 10, 2024

Indians seek justice for Father Stan Swamy. (Photo:

Christian leaders in India have hailed three US lawmakers’ demand for an independent probe into the situation that led to the death of Jesuit activist Father Stan Swamy as a prisoner three years ago.

Representative from California Juan Vargas, along with lawmakers Jim McGovern and Andre Carson, on July 6 introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on the third anniversary of Father Swamy’s death.

The 84-year-old Swamy died in a private hospital in Mumbai, in western Maharashtra state, as an under-trial prisoner on July 5, 2021.

He was accused of associating with terrorists aiming to destabilize the nation and being part of a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The US lawmakers are justified in their demand” for an independent investigation into the situation that led to the death of the priest, said Father Jacob G Palakkappilly, spokesperson of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), a regional body based in southern Kerala.

Father Palakkappilliy told UCA News on July 10 that the allegations against the priest must be probed to clear his name.

Christian leaders say the aged priest was arrested to silence his criticism that the policies of the Modi government ignored the welfare of tribal and poor in the country. 

Sway opposed a move to amend India’s stringent Forest Act, which safeguards the interests of forest dwellers. He accused the government led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of amending the law to help industrialists.

Father Stan advocated for and raised awareness among Adivasi (tribal) people, the US resolution said.

"Father Stan dedicated his life to giving a voice to the voiceless. He was a tireless advocate for the rights of the indigenous Adivasi people," Vargas noted in the resolution.

“Yes, there should be a probe into the allegations against Father Swamy,” stressed Sister Helen Tresa, a lawyer in the high court in Jharkhand.

Sway, based in Jharkhand, filed several cases to protect the rights of tribal people, who were illegally jailed after labeling them as sympathizers of outlawed Maoist rebels.

Merely because of his death, the charges against him should “not be pushed under the carpet,” the nun from the Holy Family congregation told UCA News on July 10.

The late priest was charged under the provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, though he worked for the poor, the nun noted.

Unless an independent probe is done, “he will not get justice,” she added.

Father Swamy was ill-treated without any regard to the immense services he had rendered to the downtrodden, said Jesuit Father Francis P Xavier, a program director at Dr. Ambedkar Cultural Academy in Madurai, a major town in southern Tamil Nadu, the late priest's home state.

Father Xavier praised the US lawmakers and added, “An independent probe is essential to clear his name.”

The Jesuits have already filed a case in the Bombay High Court demanding to clear his name. The case is still pending in the court.

The findings of Massachusetts-based Arsenal Consulting proved Father Swamy's innocence. The digital forensic firm said Swamy was arrested based on evidence planted on his computer by hacking it.

The priest was arrested on Oct. 8, 2020, by the National Investigation Agency, India’s anti-terror agency, and charged along with 16 other leading intellectuals and activists with the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Following his death, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, and the German Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance expressed concern.

India, however, has dismissed the criticism, claiming that Swamy was treated “strictly following the law.”

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