Kolkata: Traditionally priests, missionaries and educational heads of institutions affiliated with the Church have maintained an apolitical stance while they continue doing social work at grassroot level. However, the unceremonious arrest of Father Stan Swamy from his Ranchi house by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) in “alleged” role in Bhima Koregaon Case, has made Rev. Fr J. Felix Raj, SJ, vice-chancellor of St. Xavier’s University, in one of the rare instances to not just come out in solidarity of his fellow Jesuit and speak out his mind in an exclusive interaction with eNewsroom.
The VC, who is also an economist has strongly condemned the arresting of Father Stan Swamy. During the candid interaction, Father Felix Raj highlighted the importance of Stan Swamy’s work for the downtrodden and explained why the arresting of the 83-year-old priest is part of the battle between the rich and the poor. Below are the excerpts from the conversation that took place:
eNewsroom: You are associated with St. Xaviers, which has been known as an apolitical educational centre. But you have raised your voice against the arresting of Father Stan Swamy and have written on your website too. What was the triggering point for you?
Father Felix: The triggering point for me was the fact that I have known Father Stan Swamy personally for so many years. We are from the same Jesuits community. I have admired the work he has been doing for the poor tribal community in Jharkhand who are often exploited by many. He has throughout his life served the poor. He was not against anyone.
His arrest has ignited anger not just in us but people across the globe. Protests condemning his arrest have been organised in Japan, the UK and the USA.
But my contention in the arrest of Father Swamy when the pandemic is on, stems from the fact that he is 83-year-old, hence a senior citizen of this nation. The law of this land gives many privileges in the form of concessions, pensions and even stipends for the senior citizens. But here, we have seen how a senior citizen, working for the good of the poor tribals was questioned for 15 hours prior to his arrest. Do we give such a treatment to a child?
I just want to ask, did they have any proof or any evidence? There was no compassion for a senior citizen shown in this case. I request our Prime Minister to intervene in this case and facilitate the release of Father Stan.
eNewsroom: Whenever a Christian person in question, many allege that the social work being done is to convert people. However, for officials, it’s always easy to claim that the person working in tribal areas, has a Maoist link. In Stan’s case also, NIA officals told him that he has links with Maoists. So why is it in India, a Christian is either accused of facilitating conversion or having Maoist link?
Father Felix: As far as conversion is concerned, my first answer to it is – give me the proof of conversion by Christians, give me the proof of forceful conversion. We Christians have been working selflessly to serve the poor irrespective of one’s religion. In doing so, if one or two one or two such cases take place, by certain sects of Christians then the whole community should not be accused of making people accept Christianity. Serving humanity, serving the country selflessly is what we aim to do for our country, towards which we feel indebted.
Watch the full interview of Father Felix Raj below:
Take the example of Father Stan, he was an activist, who used to raise issues for the tribals, criticised the government and their policies if they were not pro-poor, publicly but accusing him of having a Maoist link is unfair. Given the work that he has been doing for the poor, Father Stan can be called a prophet of this era. He is a messenger of the God. And for whom does a prophet speak for? The poor and their rights. He has a spirit like Mother Teresa. He is fearless and only fears God, for he knows he is serving him by working for the poor.
eNewsroom: You appealed to the PM to release Father Stan, will you also appeal to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to raise voice for him?
Father Felix: Yes we have written to the Prime Minister and have asked him to consider the case of Father Stan Swamy. We want him to be released from police custody, because of his failing health and age. He has been unwell. He could have admitted himself in some hospital to avoid his arrest. But he didn’t as he believes that he is good work for the poor.
Jharkhand’s Chief Minister Hemant Soren has raised his voice against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy. Everyone knows that he is an intellectual, who has been relentlessly working for the poor tribals and their rights.
I would also request our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to raise her voice against his arrest, He should be released and the case can be continued in the Court.
eNewsroom: Last year St. Xavier College students had hit the streets when students of Jamia and other universities were attacked, will they take on to the roads to protest against the arresting of Stan Swamy?
Father Felix: The rally was organised by our students but no authority was present there. Our institution has been apolitical, but we want our students to remain politically aware. And they are. So when the students were attacked across the country, Xaverians wished to protest in solidarity with other students, then we could not deny them. We do not want political activities inside our campus, and no party could have unions but we believe that our students should be aware about the issues, as some of them could become leaders too. India will have a better leadership in future. Coming to this issue, if we see that we are not being heard, and there is a need to hit the streets then we will come out once again.