I was devastated to hear about the death of human rights defenders Fr Stan Swamy in custody in India this week.
Fr Stan was an 84 year-old Catholic priest who had dedicated much of his life to defending the rights of indigenous peoples. He was arrested in October 2020 and he remained in detention until he died. He had been involved in human rights since the 1970s.
I had raised his case with the authorities last year, and asked that he be released on grounds of ill health, and given adequate medical attention while in detention. He suffered from Parkinson’s and had great difficulty with daily activity such as eating, drinking and washing. He also had severe hearing difficulties, requiring hearing aids in both ears. In November last year his requests for a drinking straw and warm winter clothes were denied.
I’ve known about his work for a long time and I know he wasn’t a criminal, or a terrorist, despite what the authorities accused him of.
We will remember him for his perseverance, for his dedication over decades, and for his inspiration to so many others in India and around the world.