Father Stan Swamy, an activist working with tribals, was picked up from his home in Jharkhand capital Ranchi by a team of NIA official from Delhi.
An 83-year-old Jesuit priest has been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the probe into the 2018 violence in Maharashtra’s Koregaon-Bhima village.
Father Stan Swamy, an activist working with tribals, was picked up from his home in Jharkhand capital Ranchi by a team of NIA officials from Delhi. The officials reportedly spent around 20 minutes at his home before taking him away.
Further, Swamy, in a statement, released on 6 October, informed the NIA that, owing to his age and the COVID-19 pandemic, he was not in a position to undertake the journey. He also reportedly informed NIA about a Jharkhand government directive that asks senior citizens to not appear in public.
In the statement released before his arrest, Swamy had said:
“If the NIA refuses to accept my request and insists on calling me to to Mumbai, then I will tell them that it is not possible for me to go for the above reasons. I hope they understand these human reasons. If not, I and all of us have to be ready to bear the consequences.”
Further, Swamy had said that he could be questioned through a video link.
Swamy’s is the 16th arrest in the case.
“…what is happening to me is not unique. Many activists, lawyers, writers, journalists, student leaders, poets, intellectuals and others who stand for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits and the marginalised and express their dissent to the ruling powers of the country are being targeted.”
Stan Swamy, according to The Indian Express.
According to The Indian Express, while the NIA has alleged that Swamy had Maoist links, Swamy has said that he is being falsely implicated.
Video statement (English) of Stan Swamy two days before his arrest. In the eventuality of him being forcefully taken.
In a video, that has since been doing the rounds in the public, Swamy has said that while all this is in connection to the “Bhima Koregaon” case, he has never even gone to Bhima Koregaon.
He said that he believes the State is trying to put him out of the way, because he has been working for the Adivasis and that he had questioned the governments over land rights, representation of community members, and forest rights, reported The Indian Express.
The arrest has sparked outrage. Author and historian Ramachandra Guha said Stan Swamy has spent a “lifetime fighting for the rights of adivasis.”
“That is why the Modi regime seeks to suppress and silence them; because for this regime, the profits of mining companies take precedence over the lives and livelihoods of adivasis,” Mr Guha tweeted.
Like Sudha Bharadwaj, Stan Swamy has spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of adivasis. That is why the Modi regime seeks to suppress and silence them; because for this regime, the profits of mining companies take precedence over the lives and livelihoods of adivasis.— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) October 9, 2020
Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “…Now arrested by the NIA under UAPA! The venality of this BJP govt & NIA knows no bounds (sic).”
Several prominent activists, scholars and lawyers have been jailed for over two years while they await trial.
Stan Swamy, who has several health issues, is the oldest person to be in custody in the Koregaon-Bhima case. He has been questioned several times in the past in connection with the case. Originally from Kerala, Stan Swamy has been working for tribals in Jharkhand for over five decades.
The case relates to an event on December 31, 2017 in Pune which was followed by violence and arson in Maharashtra that left one person dead.
Investigators claim that the activists at the Elgar Parishad meet had made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements, which it said had triggered violence the next day.
Last month, the Supreme Court declined to entertain a plea for an interim bail on medical grounds by lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who is among the accused in the case. Ms Bharadwaj, 58, has been in jail in Mumbai for over two years and is suffering from diabetes and comorbidities and wanted interim bail so that she could take a medical check-up, her lawyer had said.
The investigation also claimed to have uncovered a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During the investigation, the NIA said, it was revealed that senior leaders of the CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, were in contact with the organisers of the Elgar Parishad event as well as the accused arrested in the case to spread Maoist and Naxal ideology and encourage unlawful activities.