Updated: July 6, 2021 7:48:05 pm
Several people from the Bombay Catholic Sabha peacefully protested outside St. Peter’s Church in Mumbai’s Bandra (west) on Tuesday to express solidarity with the late Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, saying the 84-year-old’s death in custody would not go in vain and that protests would continue to ensure the Supreme Court took note and prevented others in the Elgar Parishad case from languishing in jail without a speedy trial.
In the church, a funeral and memorial mass was conducted for Swamy, with only 20 people in attendance due to Covid-19 guidelines. All 20 people were priests of the Society of Jesus (SJ), the order to which Fr Swamy belonged. For others who wanted to pay their respects, an online live streaming link to the funeral was provided.
Outside the church, Bombay Catholic Sabha held posters and lit candles as a mark of protest. A placard read, “RIP Stan. Sorry Stan we failed you. Stan we continue to fight for justice. Innocent man’s blood on institutions! How many more deaths of Bhima Koregaon detainees? This must stop.”
Raphael D’Souza, an advocate and President of Bombay Catholic Sabha said, “It is not about any religion. We all our human beings. I hope this incident opens the eyes of the Supreme court. My only request to the Chief Justice of India is do not keep people languishing in jail. Like priest Swamy, there others like Sudha Bharadwaj and more who are languishing in jail. Please grant them bail. If you think they will run away, take their passports and give them strict bail conditions. Also, start the trial soon so its clear if they are guilty or not.”
“Stan Swamy dedicated his life working for tribals in Jharkhand but was denied bail multiple times despite his fragile health. The government and judiciary could have been lenient,” said D’Souza.
The protestors also found support from members of Aam Admi party. Holding a placard that stated “Father Stan did not die, he was killed”, Ruben Mascarenhas from the AAP said, “What is the larger message being sent? We will put you in jail for asking questions! That is what Unlawful activities (prevention) Act (UAPA) is about. We have to stand for the oppressed and not the oppressor. It speaks volumes about our democracy. We should all be ashamed that we let this happen.”
Dolphy D’Souza, convenor of Police Reforms Watch, said “We are resolved that his death will not go in vain. There is a clear demand that all those who are falsely implicated and jailed in the Elgar Parishad case be granted bail. Let the case continue. They should start the trial,”
“Most of them incarcerated in jail are intellectuals working for the downtrodden. The spark of father Stan’s martyrdom will lead to a larger movement for equitable justice and release of the vulnerable sections from jail and repeal of UAPA against all those who dissent, which is our fundamental right,” added Dolphy, who is also spokesperson of the Sabha.
The Sabha members chanted “Father Swami Amar rahe” as his mortal remains were driven out of the church in an ambulance to a crematorium in Shivaji Park. “We will not let this spark ignited by father Swami’s death to go in vain. We are planning another protest on Thursday, where people across Mumbai will protest in their local areas. We are inviting all like-minded people,” added D’Souza.
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