Fr Stan Swamy: Martyr for tribal rights and true freedom

Illustration of Stan Swamy
Illustration: © Manoj Pal

“I am not a silent spectator…
I am part of the game and am prepared to pay the price whatever that be.”

— Fr Stan Swamy, SJ

Swamy did pay the price by giving his life for the people and the cause he loved, the way Jesus did, of whom the Bible says, “Having loved his own, he loved them to the very end. (Jn 13: 1). He loved (and lived for them) the marginalised tribals, and the Adivasis in Jharkhand and all across the country, till he died at the age of 84, on 5 July 2021, at the Holy Family Hospital, Bandra, Mumbai.

Stanislaus Lourduswamy was born on 26 April 1937 at Virgallur village in Trichy district of Tamil Nadu. Stan’s parents were ordinary peasants who had to work hard to keep the flame burning in the family kitchen, and to see to the education of their children. Swamy knew from his early childhood the struggles a family like his had to go through in life. He possibly also knew that it was even worse with many poor families in India, in particular, of the Adivasis and tribals, especially in north India.

So, he chose the Jamshedpur Province of the Jesuits when he decided to become a priest, as the Jamshedpur Province would give him more opportunities to serve the poor, the dalits and the marginalised tribals of the region.

The turning point

As part of his Jesuit training, Stan came to Chaibasa, now in Jharkhand, to live with and to directly experience the life of the “Ho” tribe there. It is what he saw and experienced there that led him to become in every sense of the word “the voice of the poor and marginalised tribals”. He academically qualified himself in Sociology, to serve them better, going for a one-year course in Sociology in Belgium. At the completion of the course, he was chosen to go for a doctoral degree in Sociology. But, Stan opted to return to Chaibasa, and work with the tribals. After a year of service there, he was sent to the Philippines to complete his priestly studies, and was ordained a Jesuit Priest, there.

A Priest, qualified in Sociology, Fr Stan was appointed Director of the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore, for a short period. He then returned to Chaibasa to once again involve himself fully in the mission he had initiated. He was given a place at the Agricultural Training Centre, Ranchi. He founded Bagaicha, an organisation to fight for the rights of the tribals, and to champion the cause of the Adivasis, fighting for their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This did not sit well with the powers that be, the landlords of the place and the industrialists, who had their eyes set on the land of the defenceless tribals and Adivasis. These could easily garner support from both the Central and State governments, as well. Fr Stan soon became their common enemy.

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Alfonso Elengikal
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Alfonso Elengikal

Alfonso Elengikal, SSP, has the unique distinction of being the longest-serving editor of THE TEENAGER TODAY, an office he held for over 17 years. He is the bestselling author of You Can Make A Difference, You Are Destined For The Skies, Let The Real You Stand Up! and Discover The Hero Within You published by Better Yourself Books.