Home News India’s Catholics remember Jesuit tribal rights crusader with book launch

India’s Catholics remember Jesuit tribal rights crusader with book launch

“Father Stan Swamy epitomized the best of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in our world of today”

Books on the life and works of the late Indian Jesuit priest Stanislaus Lourduswamy, or Stan Swamy, who died while in detention during the pandemic, will be launched on the occasion of his 85th birthday on Tuesday, April 26.

Father Stan Swamy succumbed to COVID-19 on July 5, 2021, while in detention for allegedly plotting to kill the prime minister, among other charges.

The English and Hindi versions of the book “Fr. Stan Swamy: A Maoist or a Martyr?” written by fellow Jesuit Prakash Louis and “If not now, when? Disquieting Feminist Questions” will be released during the “Remembrance Day.”

The first book is about the life of Father Swamy and his work with tribal people.

“I have tried to bring about some of the struggles of the movement for the uplift of tribals,” said Father Louis.

The second book is an anthology inspired by the late priest’s life and brings to focus women’s voices from the grassroots who have suffered as they dared to raise their voices.

“Today, we celebrate the warm memories and the rich legacy he has left us,” said Father Cedric Prakash, founding director of Prashant, Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.

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The priest said Father Swamy “continues to challenge each one of us to be persons of compassion, courage and commitment in our world.”

Father Stan Swamy joins a demonstration in India. (Photo supplied)

Father Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, was the oldest among 16 people arrested for the Bhima-Koregaon violence under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, India’s anti-terrorism law.

The priest spent his life working for poor tribals and fought for the implementation of laws enacted for them by the federal government.

“The government had enacted laws to provide land to the tribals, but later successive governments backtracked as these tribal lands were rich in natural resources,” said Father Denzil Fernandes, executive director of the Indian Social Institute.

Father Fernandes said the “powers-to-be” found Father Swamy “a thorn in the flesh as he crusaded for tribal rights to land.”

Father Swamy established Bagaicha, a research institute near the city if Ranchi in 2000, and engaged in legal battles in behalf of tribals in prison.

India’s mining lobby are accused of indiscriminate exploitation of Jharkhand, a north-eastern state rich in mineral resources. It accounts for 40 percent of the mineral and 29 percent of the coal reserves of the country.

Sister Shalini Mullackal, professor at Vidyajyoti College of Theology at Delhi, said “simplicity” personified Father Swamy’s life, whichs was “a constant struggle to uplift the downtrodden.”

“He did not limit himself to celebrating the Eucharist or being principal of any educational institute. His goal was always to be the voice for the voiceless and get them their constitutional rights, said the Sister Mullackal.

Father Stan Swamy visits a community in a rural area in India. (Photo supplied)

“Father Stan Swamy epitomized the best of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in our world of today,” said Father Prakash.

“He lived for the ‘adivasis’ or tribals … he journeyed with them, he became an integral part of their struggle for a more just, equitable, dignified and humane life,” said the priest.

“He ate their food, sang and danced with them, he lived like them,” he added. “In the words of Pope Francis, he ‘smelled of the sheep’ like a good, concerned and caring shepherd,” said Father Prakash.

Father Swamy was arrested from his residence in Ranchi on Oct. 8, 2020, by the National Investigation Agency, India’s counterterrorist task force, for alleged terrorist activities.

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