Fr. Stan Swamy is an apt candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. I appeal to my readers to support my call to the Swedish Academy that chooses the winners to consider his case posthumously. If the prize is awarded to this martyred Jesuit priest from India, a representative of the Adivasi people whose rights he fought for during his now shortened life, should accept the honour for him.
The charges against him by an insensitive State were that he had been dancing with the banned Maoist organisation operating in the forests of Jharkhand. The accusers obviously were unlettered! Jesuit priests and Marxists both work for the poor and the dispossessed but in diametrically opposite ways. To understand that basic fact, one has to grasp the real essence of the teachings of Christ, and by extension of Christianity.
Iranian-American writer and an accomplished professor of comparative religions in the US, Reza Aslan, called Jesus a ‘zealot’. He concluded that Jesus was primarily a rebel against injustice. His targets were two — the Roman conquerors who ruled over the land of Israel through a governor, and the Jewish clergy, the Rabbinate that had turned religion into a commercial enterprise.
All the parables that Jesus used to educate his Jewish co-religionists laid stress on love, compassion and justice, especially to the poor and those in need. No resort to arms or to violence was ever advocated. In fact, the much-debated principle of offering the other cheek if one is smacked was first propagated by Jesus.
Marxism, and by extension Maoist, doctrine depend solely on guns to combat economic injustice. Christians also have to seek justice for the poor but the methods recommended to achieve the objective of amelioration of living standards are intrinsically different. Fr. Swamy had sworn obedience to the Pope and to his own Jesuit superiors. Catholic doctrine opposes Marxist precepts. There is no way he would join the Maoists in any venture where arms were to be used against State forces or State-owned properties. If he had contravened hierarchical orders, he would have been disciplined long ago. The severest punishment would be de-frocking, the mildest expulsion from the Jesuit order. These facts must be digested by the NIA investigators and the prosecutors if they are interested in establishing the truth.
But, are they interested in the truth? Or, as I suspect, they had a goal and that goal was to put away this pestiferous priest who was coming in the way of ‘development’. If the imperative was to allow exploitation of tribal forests that required the tribals to concur via a prescribed procedure and Fr. Swamy was the one who came in the way, then it became necessary to remove him from the path. The tribals without a teacher could be won over but not the priest who understood the tricks the authorities played. He would educate the tribals about their rights and also on what was in their interests.
The evidence built up against him to prove his guilt of being a Maoist and a terrorist was purely digital. Even his physical remand was not demanded for questioning by the NIA after his arrest. It had collected all the material they needed to put him away for years together without trial under the UAPA, the most undemocratic law that exists only in our country. The amendment to the Act, introduced in 2019, needs immediate judicial scrutiny. The Supreme Court should take suo motu notice of the State-sponsored death of this gentle priest to ensure justiciable laws, as existed in our land from ancient times.
There is a strong suspicion that the evidence quoted by the NIA is concocted. The US-based cyber crime consultants, Arsenal Consulting, and its president, Mark Spencer, who came off most convincingly on national television, opined that the correspondence which Fr. Swamy had entered into with the Maoists was probably planted like it was planted on the computer of co-accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. This is a serious allegation, which if proved, should result in the disbandment of the NIA and the fall from grace of its political bosses.
But in the interest of justice and fair play, the evidence of the US experts needs to be put to the test of judicial scrutiny. India cannot afford to be internationally condemned as a country that concocts false evidence to put its critics and activists for the rights of the indigenous people out of action. The ingenuity with which the hacker planted the false evidence can only be explained by Spencer. He says his findings have been recorded in detail and are open to scrutiny and questions by other cognoscenti.
When he was first confronted with this evidence recovered from his computer, Fr. Swamy had denied authorship. He was genuinely puzzled. He knew that he was being framed.
The other co-accused, especially Wilson, Gadling and Usha Bharadwaj, have also maintained that they were being framed. In the interest of justice and fair play, it is incumbent on our judicial system to prove otherwise. At present, they rely on the new jurisprudence being injected in our polity that the accused is guilty till he proves his innocence.
Only 2 per cent of the cases prosecuted under the UAPA have ended in convictions till date. The State obviously is not concerned about convictions. It is more interested in the process that keeps the accused in jail for years, thus neutralising their abilities to organise a viable opposition to unjust projects that rob the poor of their rights and even their livelihood.
In Fr. Swamy’s case it also deprived a gentle soul of his life!
Scheduled Castes had backed Cong in 2017