Matters India

Swamy’s death stirs women theologians to fight draconian laws


By Jose Kavi

New Delhi: The Indian Women Theologians’ Forum says it will campaign for the repeal of draconian laws that unjustly incarcerate those working for justice and human rights.

Mourning the death of Father Stan Swami, the association of women theologians from various Christian denominations, expressed shock and anguish that the government labeled the Jesuit activist’s work as seditious whereas the State should have been doing what the priest had done – “upholding the Constitutional rights of all Indians.”

“A man of his commitment should have been honored by the State, but instead he got incarceration and death,” laments the forum that hailed Father Swamy as a Christian who lived his “religious commitment radically and in a prophetic manner in the Indian context.”

Father Swamy died July 8 in Mumbai’s Holy Family Hospital. He was brought there on May 28 from Taloja Jail where he was lodged since October 9, 2020. 

The National Investigation Agency arrested him October 8, 2020, from his residence in Ranchi, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967. He was then taken to Mumbai and a court sent him to jail.

The statement noted that Father Swamy’s efforts to empower the marginalized communities had been a life-long commitment.

The women theologians said they will campaign for the repeal of the UAPA law, “so that all those unjustly incarcerated may be granted justice by the courts to return to their families.”

“He trained several young human right defenders in social analysis, legal literacy and constitutional rights for several years in South India before he moved to Jharkhand. He then committed himself to the rights of the tribal people whom he called his family with the love and commitment of a true follower of Christ.”

The forum asserts that like Christ, Father Swamy was “incarnated in the lives of the marginalized tribal communities who accepted him as one of their own as he gave his life for them, loving them to the very end.”

The 84-year-old Jesuit was committed to ensure that the rights of indigenous people were respected and protected and that they lived in peace and harmony with nature as is their tradition.

“We seek Justice for Stan Swamy and all other defenders of human rights who are imprisoned under the draconian UAPA and suffer without a fair and just trial in keeping with the Constitution of this great nation,” the statement said.

It further noted that Father Swamy died a “true martyr” when as a “true missionary and human rights defender” he spent the past 30 years committed to the cause of Adivasi rights.

“All activists and human rights defenders of this country are honored to count a man of Stan Swamy’s stature, as one in our midst. We hope his martyrdom will bring a positive change; respect for the excluded and marginalized and a stop to indiscriminate human rights abuses,” the women theologians said.

Addressing Father Swamy, the statement said, “Rest in Peace Fr. Stan. In taking your life, the powers that be have given us a saint to emulate and inspire us.”

The forum pledged to “work tirelessly for the conversion of our politicians to be faithful and uphold the constitutional values they pledged to follow on taking their oath of office.”

It expressed the hope that the jail authorities be moved by Father Swamy’s “spirit of love and caring that they witnessed during your incarceration, to treat prisoners with dignity, respecting their human rights.”

The women theologians also prayed that the justice system be converted to work more diligently to ensure that justice is given to people in a timely manner for justice delayed is justice denied, even at the cost of life.

“Your life as a true disciple of Christ gives us all the courage to live our faith with more conviction and commitment, so that justice and peace will flow in our country and make it truly great. Amen. Jai Hind,” the statement concluded.