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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 33, New Delhi, July 31, 2021

Interrogating the Death of Father Stan Swamy (1937-2021) | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 30 July 2021, by Arup Kumar Sen


Recent death of Father Stan Swamy in judicial custody amply testifies that we are living in a State of Exception: “...modern totalitarianism can be defined as the establishment, by means of the state of exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system”. (Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, The University of Chicago Press, 2005)

The question that crops up in our mind is why the 84-year-old Jesuit priest, who dedicated his life working for tribal rights, became a target of the Indian State. Nayantara Sahgal has aptly responded to this question: “There is no mystery about this killing. Stan Swamy worked in Jharkhand for forest rights, land and other basic rights of the Adivasis. In India today, working for human rights is a criminal offence. Indian jails are filled with men and women, known and unknown, who have dared to fight for them”. (The Indian Express, July 12, 2021)

Father Stan Swamy has been physically silenced by the machinations of Indian State, but the spectre of his spirit will go on haunting the State. In the wake of killing of the Father, all of us should subscribe to the moral position of Nayantara Sahgal:

“We are in an endless state of mourning and in grief everlasting, for the wanton destruction of human rights, for justice gone missing, for the trampling of the freedoms that were ours, and for our fellow Indians, who are being jailed, persecuted, lynched and killed on trumped-up charges.

Yet, the spirit of this Jesuit priest lives on. The love and compassion that inspired him to spend his life in the service of others inspires us to follow his example”. (ibid)

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