Skip to main content

Birthday greetings to Fr Stan Swamy, in jail: 'You taught us true meaning of solidarity'

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*

Dear Stan,
It is rather unusual and certainly not normal to wish someone who is in prison “A Happy Birthday!” One's birthday cannot be ‘happy’ in prison; however, in wishing you we celebrate your life: your mission and your message and above all, those whom you have so closely identified with, all these years so “Birthday Greetings to you dear Fr. Stan!
Our prayer today is one of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Gift of You: to so many people everywhere: particularly the poor and the excluded, the Adivasis and Dalits; to the Country, the Church and the Society of Jesus.
We continue to marvel at your unflinching commitment to the cause of justice. Over the years you have shown us all what it means to be a person for others, rooted in the non-negotiable faith-justice mandate. Your life as a Jesuit and Priest has been greatly shaped by Vatican II and the Jesuit 32nd General Congregation which states, the mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement; for reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another. You have internalised this spirituality and you radiate it!
Today, we cannot help but think of your incredibly simple life-style. Your frugality is known to all. You have lived your vow of poverty to the fullest; your material needs are few; your actual possessions are even less . The media had a field day, when some time ago the authorities came to seize your possessions -- they could find and take away almost nothing!
You have taught us the true meaning of solidarity what it means to sincerely walk the talk; that to meaningfully empower the exploited and the excluded, one has to be in solidarity with them in their struggles; to accompany them visibly and vocally, with prophetic courage, through difficulties and hostilities, for a more just and humane society.
We celebrate today your amazing work! You are a known Adivasi rights activist working on various issues of the Adivasis: land, forest and labour rights; questioning the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which stipulates setting up of a Tribes Advisory Council with members solely of the Adivasi community, for their protection, well-being and development; your work has also involved opposition to the setting up of land banks, which you believed would free up land belonging to the community in favour of the corporate sector.
Besides, you helped form a group called the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee that sought to do a study of the nature of undertrial prisoners (3,000 Adivasis illegally put in jail) and to have recourse to legal action, so that justice can be done. Your work has involved expressing dissent with several official policies and laws, which you were convinced were violative of the Constitution. The Adivasis and other excluded, who have been denied their legitimate rights, see in you a person who has left no stone unturned, to champion their cause.
You are an extraordinary person; in a selfless manner, you have given and have not counted the cost! As a young priest, you lived in an interior Adivasi village sharing a small room with one of the local families. During that time, you mastered the Ho language, studied their culture and customs, ate their food and even sang and danced with them.
You helped form a group that sought to do a study of the nature of undertrial prisoners -- 3,000 Adivasis illegally put in jail
Insertion into the tribal way of life has always been paramount to you and in a way also your forte’! You believe in youth: you have trusted them, given them a sense of identity and helped them to critically analyse what is happening to their tribal society. With the generosity and help of the locals you also built your own residence which became an open house to one and all!
Today we once again listen to those profound words which came from your heart, a short while before your arrest on October 8, 2020:
 "What is happening to me is not something unique- happening to me alone. It is a broader process that is taking place all over the country. We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers writers, poets, activists, students, leaders, they are all put into jail because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India. We are part of the process. In a way I am happy to be part of this process. I am not a silent spectator, but part of the game, and ready to pay the price whatever be it."
Yes you have not been and will never be a silent spectator!
On January 15, 2021 , on the hundredth day of your incarceration, in a message, the Jesuit Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa reminded us all that:
"Father Stan dedicated his whole life to the poorest in the world, the indigenous Adivasi and the Dalits. He is the voice of the voiceless. He has stood before the powerful and told them the truth, he is committed to defending the human rights of minorities.".
A precise summation of your mission!
In a very profound way you have epitomised the joy of the Gospels. In his Apostolic Exhortation on holiness Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis says:
"We are inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort. Their testimony reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us; they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity."
These words are without doubt all about you!
You have been in prison for two hundred days now; but even in prison , you reach out to the less fortunate prisoners in every possible way! You care for them. You have not allowed the brutal and inhuman system to break you! Instead, you tell us with such positivity and hope, that even a caged bird sings. You are not a silent spectator and you will never be one! That is why on 26 April , your 84th birthday, we celebrate you and sincerely thank you for all that you mean to us! With lots of love we say: “Happy Birthday dear Stan!!”
Your brother,
Cedric
---
*Human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.