A multi-faith vigil celebrate the life of Father Stan Swamy


The recent death of Father Stan Swamy has sent a shock wave among activists across India on the brutal and heartless nature of the current ruling party.

He was one of 15 Indian activists arrested as part of the Bhima Koregaon case, accused of terrorist and anti-national activities including plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

What makes this case a grim reality is that the government was ready to keep an 84-year-old as a political prisoner, who in addition was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and whose health was rapidly deteriorating. It was so bad that he could no longer walk, dress himself or even feed himself.

Even in this state, the government refused his bail application several times, and even famously refused to give him a straw or sippy cup in prison.

In recent months Father Stan contracted covid, and once applied for bail because he wanted to die in peace and freedom rather than in prison. He was again denied and ultimately died in a hospital in Mumbai.

There have been three reports by the company Arsenal Consulting, which reveal evidence of state-manufactured evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case. These reports have all been covered in detailed articles in the Washington Post. These reports point to a high likelihood that all the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case will be proven innocent before long. However, Father Stan was martyred before he could be vindicated.

In order to honor his death, Hindus for Human Rights organized a multi-faith vigil on July 9th, “Light, Hope, Love,” – a two-hour virtual event that brought together an incredibly diverse group of religious leaders and activists from: Dalit and Adivasi backgrounds; Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Sikh faiths; and from India, the United States, Guatemala, and South Africa.

Light, Hope, Love: A Multi-Faith Vigil for Father Stan Swamy – YouTube

The vigil began with tributes and testimonies from members of the Adivasi community in Jharkand who worked closely with Father Stan. These tributes were recorded right outside Father Stan’s office. One of the activists, Prabha Lakra, said, “Father Stan inspired people with his life and example. Father Stan’s name is synonymous to the ‘voice of the poor, the oppressed, the exploited.”

Here are some words on Swamy among many who shared their final words.

Rajmohan Gandhi, historian and grandson of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, said, “In Father Stan Swamy’s avoidable death, a beautiful tree of Indian democracy has been cut down.  To the spirit of Father Swamy I say, your fight continues! The fight for a green forest of a caring democracy, where the weak enjoy their rights. Your torch is being picked up by others.”

Brahmachari V. Sharan, Director for Dharmic Life & Hindu Spiritual Advisor, Georgetown University, said, “Let us all sing the song of compassion through our every word indeed, and in doing so we will not only honor the call of our spiritual traditions, we will be paying tribute to the memory of Father Stan Swamy.”

Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, said, “It is a constant theme, principle and practice in Father Stan’s life, poetry and ministry to refuse to be limited in life by obstacles or oppression and instead to rise like a bird and break out of cages in songs of freedom.”

In addition to this, JNU student leaders Aishe Ghosh and Saket Moon share their views on the institutional murder of Father Stan, the draconian UAPA and NSA anti-terror laws, and their commitment to keep up the fight for civil and human rights in India.

Ghosh said, “The state put an 84-year-old in jail and denied basic facilities that were necessary for his health and repeatedly denied him bail. And today, a lot of political prisoners are still in jail for charges against which there is no proof. We condemn the vindictive nature of the state. On behalf of the JNU Committee we demand the repeal of UAPA.

Moon added, “Normally, our Constitution or any other law in the world has always followed the principle of innocence until proven guilty. This doesn’t happen in the case of UAPA. You are presumed to be guilty until you prove your innocence… This is a systematic attempt to undermine our basic rights.”