11/16/2020, 10.30
INDIA
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Fr Stan Swamy: Pray for my fellow prisoners

by Stan Swamy

The Jesuit priest is accused of "Maoist terrorism" because he has always defended the Dalits and tribals in Jharkhand. He is locked up in the Taloja prison (Mumbai). The ills of age (83) and Parkinson's weaken him. But his friends and cellmates take care of him.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A prayer for his fellow prisoners: this is the request from Fr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit, arrested for "Maoist terrorism", but in reality because he has been defending the life and rights of tribals in Jharkhand for years.

In a letter that the priest managed to send to his friend, human rights activist Jonh Dayal, he says that his cellmates all come from "very poor families", and that they help with his daily needs. Fr Stan, in addition to the problems of age, is suffering from Parkinson's disease, which means he cannot wash or eat alone. His cellmates help him bathe, wash his linen and feed him. For the priest these are signs that "despite everything, humanity overflows in Taloja prison".

Fr Stan, who was transferred from Ranchi to Mumbai, had sought release on bail for health reasons, but it was not granted. Both the Catholic church and human rights groups have petitioned on his behalf.

The priest says that in the same prison there are some other activists, such as Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, with whom he meets in moments of recreation. All of them are in prison in connection with the events in Bhima Koregaon (Maharashtra) in 2018, when, following pro-Dalit demonstrations, there were clashes with the police that caused one death.

Below are some excerpts from Fr Stan's letter (written with the help of Arun Ferreira), made available by John Dayal.

 

Dear friends: Peace!

Although I do not have many details, from what I have heard, I am grateful to all of you for the support and solidarity you express on my behalf. I am in a cell of approximately 4m x 2.4m, together with two of my cellmates. It has a small bathroom and an Indian dressing table. Luckily, I was given a western style commode. Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira are in another cell. During the day, when the cells and wards are open, we meet.

From 5.30 in the afternoon to 6 in the morning, and from 12 noon to 3 in the afternoon, I am locked in my cell with my two companions. Arun assists me in eating breakfast and lunch. Vernon helps me take a bath. My two cellmates help me during dinner, washing my clothes and giving me knee massages.

They come from very poor families. I ask you to remember my companions and colleagues in your prayers.

Despite everything, humanity overflows into the Taloja prison.

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