It could have been me – instead it was you
and it may be we dear sisters and brothers
before we are through
If you can work for freedom
Sing for freedom
Die for freedom
Freedom Freedom Freedom –
if you can die for freedom – we can too
[Adapted from the well known song by Holly Nears]
Pain, grief, outrage, disbelief, resolve, resist, organise, mobilise, violence – non violence, admiration, learning, gentleness, faith, Liberation Theology – Christ and Marx – Buddha and Gandhi- Mandela and King – adivasis – dalits – Republic – Democracy?
These are some of the tsunami of words and emotions that have been raging through my head and heart since the news broke about Fr Stan having made the crossing — July 5 2021.
I met him many decades ago when I was involved with a programme called “Education to Reality” — late 1970s thanks to another Jesuit priest and a Nun who change my life. Never met him since, but kept following his work and his quiet revolutions in Jharkhand.
Thousands of adivasis thrown into jail, many others unrecorded and unsung, languishing in prisons across the country. Victims of the most draconian laws brought in by our so called democratically elected representatives of all parties. Fr Stan meticulously recorded these judicial crimes and made his findings public — making many enemies in the process.
Stan Swamy lived and died as a true Christian and a true crusader who practised socialist and humane values till the very end. And since these values and this kind of work challenged the core developmental paradigm of big industry and right wing politics – he and others like him clearly had to be discredited and silenced, preferably permanently. But when dictators and autocrats over reach themselves – unwittingly they create the beginning of the slide down the path of no return. It takes a martyr they say – to create a historic moment when the tide will begin to turn. It is surely beginning to turn.
Dear Fr Stan, this is how I see your institutional murder today and promise to join others to turn this tragedy into a different tomorrow. You and countless others have sown the seeds for of a powerful movement, for freedom, truth, justice, reconciliation and peace. We pledge that we will nurture them. Till then, “Aluta Continuaa” — the struggle continues — Jai Bhim Johar.