The Jesuits -- a Roman Catholic order whose members are known for running some of the best educational institutes in the country – are protesting the continued jail custody of Father Stan Swamy under the anti-terror law, UAPA, in the Bhima-Koregaon case. Father Fraser Mascarenhas, the former principal of St. Xavier's College in Mumbai and one of the most well-known educationists in the city, said, while the trial can go on, the activist - also a Jesuit - must be released on bail.
The octogenarian Jesuit priest has been in jail since October. He is suffering from the Parkinson's Disease and needs help even with his daily chores. After being charged under the stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Father Stan Swamy has been denied bail.
His fellow Jesuits are shocked at his arrest and are holding a silent protest with posters across Jesuit institutions, demanding his release.
"When an elder brother is treated in this manner and accused of such heinous crimes then obviously all of us have to protest and that is what we have done. I am told Father Stan Swamy was to give some evidence in the Jharkhand Court one of these months once the courts opened. So it does look like that the government is trying to avoid something that could come up in these cases," Father Mascarenhas told NDTV.
Initially several priests in Mumbai held up posters demanding Father Stan Swamy's release but when the police objected, they moved the poster inside their compound, just outside the church.
Father Mascarenhas says Jesuits across the world are raising their voice for Stan Swamy's release. The case can go on but all the arrested activists, like Sudha Bharadwaj, be released as they have been in jail without a trial, he said.
"All across India and even internationally -- I have seen a few pictures in Washington, in Rome, in different parts of Canada -- Jesuits and others have protested that one of our elder brothers, senior colleague, can be treated in this manner. We hope there will be a lot of support from people who know us well to say that this cannot be true about Father Stan Swamy," he adds.
The anti-terror agency NIA has been strongly opposing Father Stan Swamy's bail plea in the court; his next bail hearing is on December 21.
"We have filed a bail petition for Father Stan Swamy before the NIA Special Court in Mumbai. The NIA has strongly objected to the bail petition. But we are hopeful of getting bail because the NIA has not provided any incriminating evidence against Stan Swamy in the entire charge sheet," Sharif Shaikh, his lawyer, told NDTV.
The Jesuits are a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers founded half a millennium ago by the soldier-turned-mystic, Ignatius Loyola. With 16,000-plus priests, brothers, scholastics and novices worldwide, they are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church. In India, the Jesuits run some of the best-known schools and colleges.