Introduction of resolution in US Congress on Stan Swamy’s death significant, but will it sway Modi govt?

Flagrant human rights violations by Modi govt have been flagged time and again in international fora, but it simply resorts to rhetorical statements of denial while carrying on with its agenda

Father Stan Swamy (File photo)
Father Stan Swamy (File photo)
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Arun Srivastava

The introduction of a resolution in the US Congress commemorating the life of rights defender and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy on his first death anniversary and seeking an independent investigation into his death is a matter of disgrace for the Modi government which only a week back had signed a statement along with other G7 member nations to protect human rights.

Earlier, some US-based human rights organisations including USICRF had objected to misuse of State power. The USICRF had also suggested designation of India as “a country of particular concern”. This had led the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) terming the report’s observations as not just “biased and tendentious”, but also “misrepresentation reaching new levels”.

The manner in which the accusations were rejected by the MEA only strengthened the impression that the Modi government thinks that it has every right to trample human rights and no power on earth should have the audacity to challenge this.

There is little doubt that the MEA will become equally proactive and lobby to ensure that the resolution is not discussed in the US Congress, which would inflict incredible harm to India’s claim of adhering to democratic ethos.

Juan Vargas, a Congressman from the US state of California, introduced the resolution along with Representatives Andre Carson and James McGovern. Significantly, the move coincides with the first anniversary of 84-year-old Swamy's death in police custody.

Vargas, a Democratic Party Congressman, on Tuesday spoke at a webinar titled 'Persecution of Religious Minorities and their Defenders in India: Commemorating Father Stan's Death in Custody'.

UK MP Neale Hanvey, MEP Alviina Alametsa (EU), Senator David Shoebridge (Australia), and UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor addressed the event.

“I am appalled by the abuse Father Stan faced while in custody. No one who fights for human rights should face such violence and neglect," Vargas said while addressing the event.

The webinar was co-organised by Front Line Defenders, Hindus for Human Rights, the Humanism Project, India Civil Watch International, and Survival International, and co-sponsored by Adivasi Lives Matter, Dalit Solidarity Forum, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), and the Indian American Muslim Council.

Stan Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Ranchi in October 2020 under the draconian UAPA in connection with the Elgar Parishad case. It is an open secret that Swamy was not connected at all with any unlawful action. Since he fought for the poor Adivasis being exploited by capitalist and industrialists, he was marked as a target by the Modi government. Sources allege that he was ill-treated inside the jail on the instructions of some business houses with vested interests in Jharkhand.

He died at a Mumbai hospital, where he was admitted on May 29 last year, a day after he suffered a cardiac arrest and was put on ventilator support.

The intensity of torture that was perpetrated on him inside the jail could be understood from the simple fact that he was denied even lifesaving drugs.

It is ironic that along with Swamy, 16 activists were jailed for alleged inflammatory speeches at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017. Swamy was the leading figure of those who were arrested under false and fabricated charges.

The plot was evidently designed by RSS and executed by the Modi government. It is part of a much bigger conspiracy to silence the intelligentsia, academics and journalist, nicknamed as ‘Urban Naxals’ by PM Modi, to restrict them from raising their voices against rightist machinations resorted to by the RSS.

A statement released by ten of those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case – Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut and Arun Ferreira – who observed a hunger strike inside the jail on July 5 over the ‘institutional murder’ of Stan Swamy, alleged that the NIA and Taloja jail's former superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar never missed a single opportunity to 'harass' Swamy.

They also demanded action against Kurlekar and officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is conducting a probe into the Elgar Parishad case.

India has rejected international criticism over Swamy’s death, saying the due process of law was followed in his case. Such clarification simply strengthens the belief that like Narendra Modi, officials working with MEA too have gained expertise in speaking lies.

The spokesperson of MEA never tires of refuting allegations. "Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in July last year in response to media queries relating to international reactions over the demise of Swamy.


“India's democratic and constitutional polity is complemented by an independent judiciary, a range of national and state-level human rights commissions that monitor violations, a free media and a vibrant and vocal civil society. India remains committed to promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens," another statement read.

But in reality, violating human rights comes naturally to the rightist Modi government. It was unmoved at the observation of the UN body on human rights, which had said it was "deeply saddened and disturbed by the death of the activist in pre-trial detention”.

A statement by senior Supreme Court advocate Kapil Sibal too needs to be taken note of. “Fr. Stan passed away without getting bail and there was little hope of early trial,” he said. He said others were still languishing in jail. “...Lawyers, Academics, Social Activists....raise their voices for the voiceless They too are now ‘voiceless’. The State calls them ‘terrorists’,” he tweeted.

Make no mistake: the Indian State killed Fr. Stan Swamy, a passionate crusader for social justice. In the perception of the government and NIA, this will act as a deterrence for people to raise their voice and protest against the rightist machinations of the RSS and the Modi government.

General secretary of the CPI, D. Raja has said, “Both the State machinery and the judiciary are responsible for Father’s death. The State was not ready to give him even a straw. This is the height of insensitivity”.

Kavita Krishnan, member of the CPI(ML), hit out: “Modi & Shah have accomplished the custodial killing of the gentle Jesuit social worker Fr Stan Swamy”.

Lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan said, “This is nothing less than murder by the State of one of the gentlest & kindest men I have known. Unfortunately, our judicial system is also complicit in this”.

Meanwhile, followers of Father Stan Swamy have decided to stage ‘Raj Bhavan gherao’ protest on July 15 to demand a judicial inquiry into the priest’s death, repealing of the UAPA and release of all political prisoners.

Last month, Ilhan Omar, a politically controversial Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota, introduced a resolution in the United States (US) House of Representatives condemning India’s alleged human rights record and ‘violations’ of religious freedom, “including those targeting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivasis and other religious and cultural minorities”.

European Union parliamentarians, Nobel laureates and other figures of international prominence which included academic Noam Chomsky, former President of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention José Antonio Guevara-Bermúdez, Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk and Wole Soyinka have also written a letter to PM Modi, Chief Justice of India and other Indian authorities demanding the release of political prisoners arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.

It is worth recalling that Justice Shinde of Bombay High Court had ordered a magisterial inquiry into Swamy's death, since he was in the custody of the State and an undertrial at the time of demise. Ironically there is no word from the government on the status of the inquiry.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 06 Jul 2022, 6:05 PM