84-year-old Jesuit gravely ill in prison with “headache, fever and cough
Fr Stan Swamy SJ, the 84-year-old Jesuit, activist and defender of the rights of indigenous peoples who was incarcerated on 9th October 2020 in Taloja prison, Mumbai, is now ill with the symptoms of Covid-19. Fr Swamy has not been tested or vaccinated despite being 84 years old. Visits to prisoners have been stopped and only three-minute phone calls are allowed once a week. Joseph Xavier SJ, a friend of his said that in a telephone conversation on Saturday 14th May, Fr Swamy said:
“I feel bad, I have a severe headache, fever and cough. I feel very weak.”
Fr Swamy, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease and is hearing impaired, is in an overcrowded prison in which several staff are reported to have the virus. He is one of a group of activists and human rights defenders who have been falsely accused of links with extremist Maoist group. Taloja prison is overcrowded and has no medical staff, except for one Ayurvedic practitioner.
Fr Joseph Xavier was “very alarmed” by this, saying of Fr Swamy, whom he has known for many years:
“He never complains about anything. In the six months that he has been in prison, he has never complained, despite the obvious difficulties. It is not easy, but I manage, he used to say… However, in this last conversation, he said, ‘I have to tell you that I do not feel well. I feel very weak, very fragile.’ What is happening is a matter of grave concern. I call on the State and prison authorities to recognise that they cannot afford to provide medical treatment for the detainees. We will take over and look after them.”
Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj, Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, adds: “The Society of Jesus is deeply anxious about the deteriorating health of Fr. Stan Swamy and all other accused in the BK-16 case. We earnestly appeal to all concerned authorities in India to consider the health of Fr. Stan and other prisoners a priority and release them without any delay. Even when the multi-speciality hospitals have not been able to provide proper health care, how can the prisons do? Keeping them in congested prisons during the pandemic would be a criminal injustice and a murder of collective judicial conscience.”