In one of those coincidences, 83-year-old Stan Swamy was arrested by India’s high-profile National Investigation Agency about the same time that another octogenarian, Francis, was declaring that all men and women in the world are brothers and sisters, with responsibility to each other and to the earth on which they all live, its resources, its environment, its climate.

Stan Swamy and Francis the Pope are both members of the five-century-old Society of Jesus. The Jesuits, as they are called, are, the world over, at the cutting edge of the struggles of the poor and the marginalised resisting the plunder of their natural resources, and the ushing of their human dignity and constitutional rights.

To demand the freedom of the frail, ailing Catholic priest without an equally strong demand that the rights of Adivasis over their lands, forests, water and resources be safeguarded would be belittling the man who has given the last half-century of his life making their struggles his own. Born in Trichy, in Tamil Nadu, Father Stan Swamy SJ has sought to interpret his vocation and training in Ignatius Loyola’s philosophy in the service of the most deprived, the most threatened.

A legend and a hero

I have known of his work for all those decades and have...

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