Resolution introduced in US House urging India for independent probe into Father Stan's death

Father Stan, a human rights activist, died in custody on July 5, 2021.
People protesting after the death of Father Stan Swamy
People protesting after the death of Father Stan SwamyFile Photo

WASHINGTON: Three American lawmakers have introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives, encouraging India to pursue an independent investigation into the arrest, incarceration and death of Father Stan, a human rights activist who died in custody on July 5, 2021.

Introduced by Congressman Juan Vargas along with lawmakers Jim McGovern and Andre Carson, the resolution expresses concern at the alleged misuse of anti-terror laws to target human rights defenders and political opponents, applauds a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of India to suspend a controversial colonial-era sedition law and urges India's Parliament to make the suspension permanent.

The resolution "makes it clear to the Indian government and all governments around the world that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, as written in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings".

"Father Stan dedicated his life to giving a voice to the voiceless. He was a tireless advocate for the rights of the indigenous Adivasi people, trained young community leaders, and worked for justice for many communities in India," Vargas said.

"As a former Jesuit, I am horrified that Father Stan faced relentless abuse and was denied medical care while in custody. I introduced this resolution to make sure Father Stan and his lifelong commitment to the greater good is never forgotten," he added.

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Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy, known as Father Stan, was born on April 26, 1937 in a village called Viragalur in Tiruchirappalli district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and inspired by the work of Jesuit priests from an early age, studied theology starting in 1957, the resolution said.

According to the resolution, Father Stan played a key role in one of the most significant Adivasi movements in contemporary India, the Pathalgadi movement, which used Adivasi traditions of stone carving (for instance, for gravestones) to spread information among Adivasi communities regarding rights guaranteed to them under the Indian Constitution.

"During these decades in Jharkhand, Father Stan advocated for and raised awareness regarding the implementation of provisions of the Indian Constitution like the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) or the PESA Act, which instituted self-governance for people dwelling in Adivasi lands," the resolution said.

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