I met Stan Lourdusamy many years ago, but lately had little contact with him as he was working in Jharkhand. But if you met him once you wouldn’t forget him that easily. May be about 20 years ago I had the opportunity of attending some sessions on social apostolate/social change/revolution, conducted by Stan and Father Rob Currie in Patna. I was simply attracted by their deep conviction that people power should be recognised and people should be helped to identify their rights so that they become well-informed citizens. This would enable them to join the decision making process. No matter where or what level they were they could be part of the decision-making process. Their human rights are to be valued and protected and for that they have to struggle and demand their rights and entitlements as Dalits, tribals and marginalised groups.
Stan was a radical thinker. He believed in taking radical steps to bring about change. He was not one for making compromises. He took firm steps and stood by his decisions. He conducted training sessions at the Indian Social Institute, and prepared nurtured many activists. These activists work with people who are voiceless, living in distant areas of practically all states of India.
These activists are waking up people who do not know what it means to be living according to the constitution of this great democracy – a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. To secure and enjoy justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Stan was against displacement; he emphasised the fact that the land, the forest and the water in Jharkhand belonged to the tribals. That they should not leave these birth rights to the others, especially multinationals, to enjoy, and become bonded labourers/migrant workers in other states. Stan empowered the youth particularly, to understand the prevalent situation and to take a stand for the community and to stand firm for their land rights.
Stan was a simple person; his approach was simple too. He lived in a natural setting that he named ‘Bagaicha’, which could be approached by everyone in need. I had the opportunity of visiting this place once, may be eight years ago. It was a lovely place for people to come together, reflect upon issues and learn together.
Stan was arrested from his residence on the 8th of October, 2020. He had a feeling that he would be targeted, so he was ready. He was implicated in the Bhima Koregaon incident and was labeled a ‘Maoist and an Urban Naxal’. He told the National Investigation Agency that he had had no connection with the Bhima Koregaon group and had never been there.
Stan stood by the oppressed and worked for their liberation – social, economic, cultural and political. Thousands of tribals have been thrown behind bars for agitating against land alienation. They were against corporates setting up companies that took away their land without giving them adequate compensation. Those who agitated or demanded that their rights be protected were taken into custody and put in jails where they rotted as undertrials for years. Stan organised the tribal youth against these injustices and filed a case in the Jharkhand High Court seeking judicial intervention.
Stan was arrested from his home (Bagaicha), taken to Mumbai and held in Taloja Jail. Although officials claim that they had given him a private cell, a wheelchair, a walking stick and all other facilities possible, they could not see that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and needed a sipper to drink liquid. Stan had to apply to the court to allow him to have a sipper. He prayed for bail on medical grounds but each time NIA vehemently opposed it. No COVID test was conducted for Stan in jail. In Holy Family Hospital he tested positive and eventually died due to cardiac arrest. But Stan did not die a natural death, he was murdered by the system that was determined to see this ‘Maoist, Urban Naxal’ totally destroyed. The anti-people government and the NIA have got Stan out of the way. We condemn this in the strongest terms, in pain and anger.
Stan will live forever in the midst of the struggling masses and continue to provide strength and courage to them to march ahead!
Sudha Varghese, an eminent social worker and a Catholic nun, originally hails from Kottayam, Kerala. She moved to Bihar in her late teens and has been living and working with the downtrodden in Bihar for more than three decades. In 2006, the Indian government honoured her with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the country.
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