Fr Stan from prison: 'Even a caged bird can sing'
A letter to the brothers of the 83-year-old Jesuit who has been in prison in Mumbai for over 100 days for his work in defense of the tribals. Prime Minister Modi does not want to intervene on his case
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Thanks for the solidarity received, but also a testimony on the fate of the many cellmates from poor communities, awaiting trial "without even knowing what accusations are made against them" writes Father Stan Swamy. The 83-year-old Jesuit who has Parkinson's and has been held in prison in Taloja, near Mumbai since October 8. He is charged with "terrorism" for his commitment in Jarkhand in favour of "adivasi ”, the tribal peoples, marginalized in Indian society. The Indian Church and many realities of civil society have been working for months for his release, but no positive signs have yet arrived from the judicial authorities. The matter was also raised last week during a meeting that the three Indian cardinals - Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar community and Mar Baselios Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara community - had with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on various issues concerning the condition of Christians in India. Card. Gracias reported that he also spoke about the case of Father Swamy, but received the answer from Modi that the premier "does not want to interfere with the work of the investigative agencies".
Meanwhile, concern is growing for the health conditions of Father Stan who on his part, even in prison, still concerns himself with the needs of the least. Here is the text of his letter.
First of all, I deeply appreciate the overwhelming solidarity expressed by many during these past 100 days behind the bars. At times, news of such solidarity has given me immense strength and courage especially when the only thing certain in prison is uncertainty. Life here is on a day-to-day basis. Another strength during these past hundred days, has been in observing the plight of the undertrials [those detained awaiting trial]. A majority of them come from economically & socially weaker communities. Many of such poor undertrials don’t know what charges have been put on them, have not seen their charge sheet and just remain in prison for years without any legal or other assistance. Overall, almost all undertrials are compelled to live to a bare minimum, whether rich or poor. This brings in a sense of brotherhood & communitarianism where reaching out to each other is possible even in this adversity. On the other hand, we sixteen co-accused have not been able to meet each other, as we are lodged in different jails or different ‘circles’ within the same jail. But we will still sing in chorus. A caged bird can still sing.
Fr. Stan Swamy