“Living Stan was a nobleman, but the departed Stan is unstoppable and his voice on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden is even stronger and will resonate it throughout history,” said Father Noby Ayyaneth of the Malankara Catholic Diocese of North America condoling the death of Father Stan Swamy at a remembrance meeting organized under the banner of Indo-US Democracy Foundation in Floral Park, New York. Jesus Christ was a master humanitarian, and Fr. Stan was following in his master’s footsteps. For him, suffering was not a tragedy in the face of injustice and as he could not be a silent spectator”.
Mr. George Abraham, Executive Director of the India-US Democracy Foundation, welcomed the gathering and stated ‘it is a dark day for democracy in India and Father Stan Swamy’s detention, treatment in prison and death is a blot on the nation’s consciousness and a travesty of justice. He expressed his disappointment that in today’s India, the presumption of innocence is becoming a thing of the past. India is about to celebrate its 75th Independence Day, and our founding fathers built democratic institutions that stood the test of time and protected democracy, freedom, individual liberty, and equal justice under law. However, these institutions are increasingly under attack and are being diminished. Today, anyone who dares to criticize the authorities is in danger of being termed anti-national.
Professor Indrajit Saluja, Publisher of Indian Panorama Newspaper, said Father Stan Swamy was a frail and weak man physically but strong morally and spiritually to carry on with his work on behalf of the weaker sections of society. As Indian Americans, we must demand our politicos to speak out when authorities target the poor and downtrodden in India. UAPA is a draconian law that the Supreme Court should have reviewed, and it is a shame that an innocent man had to pay with his life this way.
Pastor Wilson Jose, Pastor of the Grace International Church in Mineola, said while we have gathered here to celebrate Father Stan’s life, we would like to express our indignation as Pravasis, the way the political leaders and the judiciary treated him in India. Father Stan represented Christ’s teachings to its core and did his best to uplift the neglected ones by a caste system that is in place over centuries. Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, and Fr. Stan’s life exemplified those principles. During the freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi was jailed many times by the British authorities. However, they respected his ideals and made sure no harm happened to him. Sadly today, the Government of India lacks even that basic level of humanity in the treatment of its own citizens!
Father John Thomas of Orthodox Church pondered what it would be like if any one of us would be in Fr. Stan’s shoes. Will we get intimidated or pull back? Father Stan’s life is a testament to all of us and should inspire us to stand up and fight for what is right. Father P.M. Thomas, Vicar-in-charge of Marthoma Church in Queens Village, said Father Stan’s passing had created a big void, and each of us has a role to play in continuing his work. He asked not to be discouraged but to continue the fight until the truth is revealed.
Mr. Amir Rashid, Director at NYPD who hails from Bihar, described the hardships the marginalized people suffer at the powerful hands in States like Jharkhand. Father Stan Swamy was the voice for the voiceless, and as long as this same power structure exists, these injustices will continue to be tolerated. Pastor Babu Thomas of IPC Hebron in Queens Village reiterated the old saying that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Father Stan Swamy was not a terrorist. The government knew that. His only crime was he loved the poor and served them. Unless we stand up and fight for our freedom and rights, our world will be a diminished place to live.
Dr. Surinder Malhotra, former President of the Indian Overseas Congress described the pathetic situation in India as far as caste and religion is concerned. Unlike the United States, even for a job application, they want to know your religion. Even in our Diaspora here, they tend to ask whether he is a Hindu or a Christian, north Indian or south Indian, and such intolerance is so evident and has become part of our mindset. He condoled the death of a man who dedicated his entire life to doing good but ended up dying in custody.
Mr. Mohinder Singh Gilzian, President of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA, said it is outrageous that a man who is working on behalf of the poor dies in Government custody. The people who are responsible for foisting false charges to imprison him should be held accountable. The UAPA act is being misused and used against people for political reasons. Dr. Anna George, President of the Indian Nurses’ Association in New York, called Father Stan Swamy’s imprisonment and death cruel and unusual punishment. She asked for raising our collective voices to stop this from happening again.
Mr. Koshy Thomas, who ran for the NYC Council from District 23, expressed his sorrow, and asked authorities to protect activists such as Father Stan while respecting the human rights of every citizen in India regardless of their religion or caste. Mr. John Joseph, the Vice-President of the Indian overseas Congress, urged not to be silent on these ongoing atrocities by the authorities. Is India a real democracy? He asked the participants to be more vigilant in guarding against these Human Rights abuses.
Mr. Shaji Karackal, National news coordinator, Harvest TV said ‘forgive us father, I am guilty and many of us are for not seeing the truth on time to come to your defense”. Father Stan Swamy will be remembered as a nobleman who stood up for the poor and marginalized. Mr. George Chacko also spoke. Mr. Varhgese Abraham thanked everyone for their attendance and paid tribute to the memory of this great soul, Father Stan Swamy. Mr.Shaji Ennasseril (solidactionstudio.com) provided the logistics.