In a statement on Saturday, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has requested that the Biden administration "hold the Indian government accountable" for the recent death of local Jesuit priest Fr Stan Swamy.
Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Stan Swamy, is an Indian Roman Catholic Priest and a tribal rights activist in the local region. Initially trained in the Philippines, Swamy has been involved in missions work for several decades and has advocated for the rights of the local Adivasi people since the 1980s. The Jesuit priest was arrested in 2018 after being implicated in local violence and has been in custody without bail since then.
Swamy died on Monday from several medical failures. Swamy had previously suffered from Parkinson's and contracted COVID-19 while he was in pre-trial detention before his trial. Swamy also had a cardiac arrest in May 2021, leaving him vulnerable to several illnesses. These conditions worsened when the Indian government denied him a sipper for drinking water, a standard tool used by those with Parkinson's. These conditions, mixed with the historically questionable state of Indian prisons, are suspected of having contributed to Swamy's death.
The USCIRF has condemned the Indian government for its consistent neglect of Swamy's health. "Father Stan Swamy's death is a stark reminder of the egregious and ongoing persecution of India's religious minority communities," Nadine Maenza, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said in a statement. Maenza implored that the US government step up and "hold the Indian government accountable and raise religious freedom concerns in the US-India bilateral relationship."
Several church groups and civil leaders in India have protested Swamy's arrest, including the Catholic Church.