Jharkhand CM, Catholic organisations question tribal rights activist Stan Swamy’s detention by NIA
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Swamy from his residence on the Bagaicha Bagan campus in Ranchi and took him to Mumbai on Friday morning
Following the arrest of 83-year-old tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy on Thursday in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, catholic associations and the Jharkhand CM have came out in his support.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Swamy from his residence on the Bagaicha Bagan campus in Ranchi and took him to Mumbai on Friday morning. The NIA has alleged that Father Stan Swamy was in contact with Maoists. He has been sent to judicial custody until October 23.
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren questioned the motive behind the arrest. "What message does the BJP want to give out by arresting 83-year-old Stan Swamy? He raises his voice for the suppressed, poor people and tribals. What kind of obstinacy is this?" tweeted Soren.
Support has been pouring in for the Jesuit priest. The auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi, Theodore Mascarenhas, said in a statement that the community was distressed and troubled by the manner in which Stan Swamy was arrested.
“It brings no glory to the name of the premier National Investigating Agency that they could not find time in the daylight to come to take Father Stan Swamy and could reach his residence only after darkness had fallen,” the church body said in a statement.
“We would have expected that the top investing officers would have understood the danger to Fr. Stan’s health before taking him out of the house, especially since he was pleading with them, telling them that it was night and he was a sick man. We reaffirm our faith and trust in the Indian Constitution and our judicial institutions. We pray to the almighty that justice may prevail, and that democratic right of citizens may be guaranteed,” it said.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) appealed to the authorities to immediately release Fr. Stan Swamy and allow him to return to his residence. Archbishop Felix Machado, Secretary General of CBCI, highlighted that Fr Swamy had spent a major portion of his life fighting for tribals and the downtrodden in Jharkhand.
“Fr. Stan has for decades been working to protect the rights of the Adivasis, especially their land rights. This could have worked against the interests of certain people. We earnestly urge that the rights, duties and privileges of all citizens are duly safeguarded, and peace and harmony prevail among all," he said in a statement.
The All India Catholic Union too has expressed its apprehensions regarding the arrest of the frail and ailing priest in the midst of the pandemic. “This seems to be a part of the project to silence dissent and protest against alienation of tribals from their natural resources,” said Lancy D’Cunha, national president of the union.
Swamy was arrested in connection with an FIR filed on January 8 for an event organised at Shaniwar Wada called Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017. The Pune police arrested him and several activists including Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Fernandez, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale claiming that the event was organised as part of Maoist activities.
NIA officials claim that the investigations established that Stan Swamy was involved in the activities of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). The agency also accused him of receiving funds for CPI-Maoist activities.
Swamy said the NIA had falsely implicated him. He said he has been working for Adivasis and questioning the government over issues of land rights, representation of community members and forest rights. “This, I believe, is the main reason why the State is keen to put me out of the way,” he said in a statement shortly before being arrested.