Jailed Indian priest Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Stan Swamy, has written a letter expressing gratitude to his supporters while additionally conveying concern over circumstances faced by his fellow inmates awaiting trial.
“First of all, I deeply appreciate the overwhelming solidarity expressed by many during these past 100 days behind the bars,” Father Swamy wrote in a letter made public Jan. 22.
“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,” he wrote from Mumbai’s Taloja Central Jail.
Father Swamy’s letter was released three days after several church leaders met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who told them he would not intervene in his case. There are also concerns over the 83-year-old priest’s health; especially as he suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
In his letter Father Swamy describe the situation faced by those detained awaiting trial in the jail.
“Another strength during these past 100 days, has been in observing the plight of the undertrials [those detained awaiting trial]. A majority of them come from economically and socially weaker communities,” Father Swamy wrote. “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,” he wrote.
“Overall, almost all undertrials are compelled to live to a bare minimum, whether rich or poor. This brings in a sense of brotherhood and communitarianism where reaching out to each other is possible even in this adversity.”
“On the other hand, we 16 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.”
Father Swamy is the oldest person in the country to face terror-related charges and he has joined 15 others including human rights activists, journalists and scholars arrested in connection to a 2018 incident of caste-based violence known locally as the Bhima Koregaon case.
Father Swamy has been ordered detained by the Special National Investigation Agency court after being charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Father Swamy’s supporters say he is being branded as an anti-nationalist and was jailed because he was fighting for the implementation of laws passed by the parliament for tribal people and their constitutional rights.
On Oct. 26 last year, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences called for his immediate release; following a similar statement issued by Indian bishops.