National Justice Day, a Jesuit call for the awareness on human rights violations, was observed at 6 PM on 28 July 2021 in the Diocesan Community Centre of Sacred Heart Cathedral, New Delhi, in memory of the custodial death of Fr Stan Swamy SJ. Many prominent citizens of Delhi, social activists, human rights defenders, representatives of various Churches were present along with Fr Stanislaus D’Souza SJ, the Jesuit Provincial of India along with Jesuits, nuns, priests and friends of Fr Stan Swamy. Two minutes silence was observed at the beginning of the service. After offering floral tributes to Fr Stan, the participants formed a circle with lighted candles holding placards as a mark of solidarity. Fr Denzil Fernandes SJ, the Executive Director of Indian Social Institute, Delhi, welcomed the participants and introduced the special guests. Moving tributes were paid to Fr Stan Swamy by Fr Stanislaus D’Souza SJ, Mr Harsh Mander, the Director of the Center for Equity Studies, Prof Apoorvanand of Delhi University, Fr Jervis D’Souza, the Deputy Secretary General of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India, Rabbi Ezekiel Issac Malekar, the Honorary Secretary of Judah Hyam Synagogue, , Rev. Vijayesh Lal, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Rev. Abraham Mathew, the Executive Secretary of Policy, Governance and Public Witness in National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Sr Anastasia Gill, PBVM, a former member of Delhi Minorities Commission.
Fr Denzil presented a brief sketch of the life of Fr Stan. Fr Denzil maintained that Fr Stan worked within the framework of the Constitution of India and worked for the empowerment of the Adivasis and the other marginalized groups. Fr Stanislaus D’Souza described Fr Stan Swamy as a sentinel of liberty for which role he had to pay a heavy price of humiliation, false charges and death. Fr Stanislaus emphatically stated that the Jesuits had resolved to carry forward the legacy of Fr Stan. Fr Jervis offered condolences on behalf of the CBCI. He contended that Fr Stan was denied justice for the very act of fighting for justice. Quoting Julio Ribeiro, he demanded a Nobel Prize for Fr Stan’s work of emancipation. Adding devotion to the memorial service, Rabbi Ezekiel chanted a Hebrew memorial prayer for the repose of the soul of Fr. Stan.
Mr. Harsh Mander moaned the death of Fr Stan. Fr Stan, Mr. Mander asserted, was a national treasure who was falsely implicated and killed in the process of the incarceration. Untold cruelty was inflicted on him, even to the extent of denying a sipper for drinking water, who could not even take bath by himself or change his clothes. Mander recalled fondly his meeting with Fr Stan in Bagaicha, Jharkhand. He lavished praise on Fr Stan’s fearless nature. He urged everyone to carry forward the legacy of Fr Stan in defending the values of justice, freedom, equality and fraternity.
Prof Apoorvanand stressed that Fr Stan was not weak, he did not ask for mercy but justice in demanding bail. Rev. Vijayesh Lal, while offering his condolences said that Stan’s life was a gift to India. His fight for justice was not a project or a program but a lifestyle. Rev. Abraham Mathew exposed the gaps in the legal practices of the country by way of quoting Justice Shinde of Bombay High Court, who appreciated the work of Fr Stan. Sr Anastasia Gill while paying homage to Stan said that we have to learn from the writings and work of Stan and the call, “I am not a silent spectator.”
Fr Anthony Dias SJ, while thanking everyone, reiterated that Fr Stan is a saint and a prophet and it is time to work towards freeing those framed with false charges especially those of the Bhima Koregaon case, critiquing the development model of the government, protecting the values of the Constitution, and keeping the legacy of Fr Stan alive by building a broad democratic network.