10/08/2021, 13.33
INDIA
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Hindu radicals want to erase Fr Swamy’s memory in Mangaluru

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Jesuit’s calvary began a year ago when he was jailed for defending the rights of marginalised people. He died last July after almost nine months of detention. Now in Karnataka nationalists are against St Aloysius College naming a campus park after him, threatening violent actions.

 

Mangaluru (AsiaNews) – Exactly one year ago, on 8 October 2020, Fr Stan Swamy was arrested in Ranchi. This was the start of his long calvary that would end in his death, on 5 July, from COVID-19 and other sufferings endured in prison. He already had Parkinson's disease.

For years, the 84-year-old clergyman played a leading role in defending the rights of tribal people. His fate represents a dark page in the history of India’s Christians.

Now Hindu nationalists want to erase him from memory in Mangaluru, Karnataka, as evinced by the recent storm caused by the decision of St Aloysius College, a well-known local Jesuit university, to name a park at its campus after Fr Swamy.

The news immediately sparked a violent reaction from groups linked to Hindutva, Hindu nationalist ideology, who announced that they would not allow this to happen “at any cost”.

The naming ceremony was set to take place yesterday but college administrators decided to postpone because of a two-day visit to the city by the President of India Ramanath Kovind, currently underway.

Meanwhile, right-wing nationalists are fuelling the controversy. VHP leader Sharan Pumpwell stated that Fr Swamy was arrested on "serious charges” of “terrorism” and “support for the Maoist guerrillas” in connection with the Bhima Koregaon riots of 1 January 2018.

The Jesuit clergyman had always rejected the accusations, denying that he had ever seen the documents investigators claim were on his computer; instead, he had always insisted that he only defended the rights of the poorest with non-violent means.

Despite this, “It is highly condemnable and an insult to the social system to name a park after such a person,” Sharan Pumpwell said.

For the latter, the college’s choice has “shocked education lovers and peace-loving people”.  Therefore, “The college will be responsible if any untoward incident takes place.”

In reacting to such remarks, the college rector, Fr Melwin Pinto pointed out none of the charges against Fr Swamy has never been proven. Instead, “We will go ahead with the naming, and shall not budge despite such threats,” he explained.

“The postponement,” he added, “is linked only to the desire not to trouble the police which is busy with the president’s visit. An alternate date for the inauguration will be selected soon.”

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