Indian Jesuit priest Stanislaus Lourduswamy, known as Stan Swamy, was brought back to jail after a short visit to a hospital on Tuesday, May 18, for a “check-up” due to COVID-19 symptoms.
Friends and family members of the priest earlier called for immediate medical care for the 84-year-old Jesuit after he developed symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
Jesuit priest Cedric Prakash, however, said Father Swamy was back in jail on Wednesday and “his condition is bad.”
“Yesterday, he was taken to the JJ Hospital for some check up only but not admitted,” said Father Prakash.
Father Swamy has been held in Taloja prison in Mumbai since October.
He was taken to a government hospital in central Mumbai on Tuesday for medical evaluation and to have a COVID-19 vaccine.
Father Joseph Xavier, SJ, a friend of Father Swamy said he was able to talk to the priest in the weekend over the phone.
“I feel bad, I have a severe headache, fever and cough,” he quoted the detained priest. “I feel very weak, very fragile,” he reportedly said.
“It has really come to a breakpoint,” said Father Xavier in a Youtube video describing Father Swamy’s condition.
“The state, the prison authorities are not able to handle the situation,” added the priest.
Lawyers have repeatedly appealed for the release of Father Swamy on humanitarian grounds.
In March, an Indian court refused to grant bail to Father Swamy, saying that the petition presented by the lawyers were “inadmissible.”
The priest, a known tribal rights activist, was arrested by India’s National Investigation Agency on Oct. 8, 2020.
He was living in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state in Eastern India, during the time of his arrest and was brought to Mumbai, about 1,750 km southwest.
He was placed in judicial custody in Taloja Central Jail near Mumbai after he was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
The priest was accused of terror-related offenses under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly furthering the cause of banned communist groups through his civil rights organizations.
Authorities tagged the priest’s Persecuted Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee, a human rights organization, as a front organization of Maoist and extremist groups.
The Bagaicha, an organization established by Father Swamy to empower the tribal group Adivbasis, was also tagged as a communist front.
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.
The priest’s supporters said 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.
India’s National Crime Records Bureau showed that as many as 5,922 people were held under the country’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act between 2016-2019, with only 132 convictions.
The draconian law has come under severe criticism from international observers in recent years, as has India’s human rights record since the Bharatiya Janata Party came into power.
In a recent “Freedom in the World Report 2021” by Freedom House, the country was downgraded from “free” to “partly free” for the first time.