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

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

How green revolution led to 'deterioration' of Punjab economy, land, air and water

By Dr Gian Singh*  A recent research paper, based on a survey of 320 farming families in four districts of Punjab, has tried to show that high crop densities and the use of inputs have led to degradation of land, air, water and humans through a rich agricultural structure. Although mechanization has increased agricultural productivity, it has also caused environmental degradation.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

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".

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.

Abysmal deficit of water, food waste recycle treatment 'impacting' Chennai life

By Simi Mehta*  We are living in a state where the most basic needs like food and water are not assured to the people residing in the urban areas, which account for the biggest sources of food and water wastage. Socio-economic inequality in society which is pervasive in urban areas is one of the main reasons for this.