Saturday, May 18, 2024

“…dreary desert sand …”

Editorial 2

We will probably never recover from the grief of Father Stan Swamy’s demise ~ although in time we may accept our loss. Within and without India, there is not only a deep sense of grief and loss but also indignation that a man of Father Stan’s stature should be forced such an inglorious end when he should have been nurtured and venerated. But today we live in a country that has lost all sense of self, all sense of propriety and justice ~ a country that has lost its soul hence its way, a country that has switched off the sun and delights in darkness. All right-thinking people across the globe have minced no words to denounce the way Father Stan was treated ~ first of all by false allegations~ and then cruelly denied human and constitutional rights and liberties. In fact, he was denied the very Right to Life, when he was even denied a straw and a sipper. How low can we ~ this country ~ descend ~ this country that has all the pretensions to the ethos of non-violence, compassion and forbearance? By now, hopefully everyone knows exactly who Father Stan was, what he stood and fought for and what he suffered at the hands of those who were determined to crush his passionate spirit, love and justice, as also of those who shared his agony and the need to stand up for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, who still languish behind bars on trumped up charges. Father Stan had no criminal record and while the NIA forcefully opposed his bail, it did not seek his custody for interrogation, asking him to be sent to judicial custody instead. This amply proves there is no evidence of the accusations made against Father Stan. Surely, in the nine months that he was imprisoned, the NIA could have framed the charges, based on evidence, and tried him in court? Any custodial death is the responsibility of the State but Father Stan’s death unequivocally underscores the State’s abuse of its powers to suppress and silence voices that speak of it straying from the constitutional path. The nexus between Governments and corporates, especially in resource-rich States such as Jharkhand, which are largely the homes of disadvantaged indigenous people ~ the forest-dwellers mainly ~ is well known and well-documented. Clearly, what Father Stan stood and worked for was the prioritization of the human being over avarice ~ wealth-creation is not a sin but prioritizing wealth-creation over and above human lives and livelihoods is heinous and indefensible, in a country that constitutionally mandates the Right to Life. But then, today we live in a country that prioritizes cows over human beings and lynching people over allegations of cow smuggling, beef-eating, etc., have become the norm ~ in fact, valourized. What has happened to the India of Buddha, Guru Nanak, Gandhi, Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and so many people like them, who authored the India we were so proud of? Father Stan’s demise, while still in custody, brings us face-to-face with the reality that today we live in an India where we can no longer hold our heads high. How can we, when an 84-year-old frail and ailing man is perceived as a threat to the world’s largest democracy, which has the second largest population in the world? This is an India that is frightened at our Founding Father’s idea of India ~ an idea that was sowed right from the time of this nation’s imprisonment by colonials and imperialists. Today’s India is once again colonized ~ unfortunately, this time by “narrow domestic walls”. Or, perhaps “narrow domestic minds” is more appropriate? Father Stan’s death also holds up a cleaned mirror for the whole world to see the real face of the present India ~ although parts and bits were already emerging and evident for several years. As all other nations, India was never perfect but the multi-dimensional and the multifarious endeavours and efforts were never obstructed, as is now. Every person, every nation has a self image but what if that self image is not as pretty as we believe it to be? Today’s India has joined several other nations that has illusory and unrealistic self image but our self-righteousness makes us blind. And this blindness is what leads to martyrdom of people like Father Stan. It started with Gandhi’s martyrdom, didn’t it? Today’s India is no longer a “clear stream of reason” but a soulless and “dreary desert sand“.