PM Modi refuses to intervene in Stan Swamy issue, says it must go through normal channels

PM Narendra Modi held a meeting on Tuesday with Catholic bishops for a wide-ranging conversation on minorities and their rights

Father Stan Swamy (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Father Stan Swamy (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

Ashlin Mathew

In a meeting with Catholic bishops held on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he would not be able to help in the issue of Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy’s incarceration at Taloja Jail in Maharashtra.

“When we brought it up in the meeting, the Prime Minister said the case was with the agencies. The NIA was following up with the investigation. The PM was aware of the problem, but he said that the government did not want to interfere too much in the functioning of the agency,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay. He is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

“The Prime Minister expressed his inability to intervene in the issue of law. The solution in Stan Swamy’s case can only come from the investigating agencies, the Prime Minister said. He added that the case had to go through normal channels,” said Cardinal George Alencherry, the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and member of the College of Cardinals.

He added that politics was not part of their conversation with the Prime Minister.

Incidentally, a case was filed against Alencherry in 2019, citing irregularities in a controversial land deal case in Ernakulam. In 2020, Kerala police gave a clean chit to the Cardinal.

The Prime Minister met Gracias, Alencherry, and Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, the head of the Syro-Malankara Church and also a member of the College of Cardinals in Delhi for a wide-ranging conversation on minorities and their rights.

Tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy was arrested on October 8, 2020, from his residence Bagaicha in Ranchi for his alleged involvement in Bhima Koregaon violence on January 1, 2018, and for participating in Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. This is despite the fact that Fr Swamy had neither been to Bhima Koregaon, nor participated in the Elgar Parishad.

The 83-year-old priest was sent to judicial custody by a Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court and has been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). On January 15, 2021, Fr Swamy completed 100 days in prison.

The priest, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was denied a sipper cup which was eventually provided to him only on December 4, 2020. Several of his bail applications have been denied.

Swamy’s was the latest of the arrests in the case in which activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Delhi University professor Hany Babu, poet-activist Varavara Rao, lawyer Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and academic Anand Teltumbde have in jail for more than two years.

In the meeting with the Prime Minister, the cardinals also requested the PM to invite Pope Francis to India. The Pope had expressed an interest in visiting India in 2017, four years after his election to the papacy, but the Modi government had failed to invite him. The Pope then visited Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The church leaders also sought an equitable distribution of social welfare funds meant for religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians.

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    Published: 19 Jan 2021, 9:56 PM