Fellow Jesuits pay tribute to their confrere who died at the age of 84 after a long period of incarceration prison. A friend, Fr Mascarenhas remembers how he was “inspired after Fr Stan’s stint as director, when he went to work with” the marginalised in Ranchi. For writer Arundhati Roy, his slow murder “is a microcosm of the not-so slow-murder” of Indian democracy.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Fr Stan Swamy, who died on Monday at the age of 84, was laid to rest today.
His fellow Jesuits described the service as “The funeral of a saint of our time”, held in St Peter’s Church in Bandra (Mumbai).
Only 20 people were able to take part in the ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the Mass was streamed live.
Fr Stan spent long months in prison on charges of “terrorism” for his commitment to the rights of tribal and Dalit communities.
For his final journey, his body was dressed in a red chasuble, while his hands clasped a chalice and his fingers were entwined with the Rosary.
“Fr Stan was hounded because of his staunch support for the struggle of the Adivasi and the Dalits for their basic human rights,” said in his homily Fr Stanislaus D’Souza, president of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia, citing the Gospel passage about the flagellation of Jesus.
In the eulogy, his friend Fr Frazer Mascarenhas mentioned the word “comrades”. To think that Fr Stan used it in a Maoist sense “is an absolutely ridiculous accusation. Stan was gentle; someone who loved peace,” who rejected all forms of violence. “He considered all those working for humanity [. . .] as his comrades.”
In all this he valued his priesthood above all else. “Every time I went to visit him [in the hospital]. He was interested in receiving Jesus in Holy Communion,” Fr Mascarenhas noted.
“One particular evening, when I forgot to bring the Holy Communion, after we had chatted for a while, he said, ‘now give me the Communion’. I went back to my parish and brought Fr Stan the Holy Communion, and he was truly grateful for that. This was the real Fr Stan.”
“As a young Jesuit, I went to an institute where Fr Stan was director. He taught social analysis,” Fr Mascarenhas said.
“He explained and helped us understand the undercurrents of Indian society. Later I was inspired after Fr Stan’s stint as director, when he went to work with” the marginalised in Ranchi.
Fr Stan “worked for 30 years with the most vulnerable in Indian society” using “his social analyses”. “At the time of his arrest, 3,000 young Adivasi were detained” for the same reasons he was, and he “was fighting for them”.
Immediately after the funeral, Fr Swamy’s remains were cremated; his ashes will be taken to Ranchi, where he wanted to die. Moving his body would have entailed logistical difficulties, a Jesuit source said. A monument is already planned in his memory.
Meanwhile, the elderly Jesuit priest’s death is a major topic of discussion across the country. Writer Arundhati Roy slammed Indian authorities for the way he died.
“The slow murder of Father Stan Swamy is a microcosm of the not-so slow-murder of everything that allows us to call ourself a democracy,” writes Roy. “We are ruled by fiends. They have put a curse upon this land.”