The arrest and imprisonment of an 83-year-old Jesuit priest in a two-year-old case have led to massive protests by people’s organizations, activists, intellectuals and concerned citizens from across India.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal body to counter terror activities in the country, on October 8 arrested Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy from his residence at the Bagaicha Campus near Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand State in eastern India.
According to the latest information, the agency on October 9 took the priest to Mumbai, in western India, and presented him before a court that sent him to judicial custody until October 23.
The arrest of “Stan Swamy is a gross violation of human rights and democratic norms,” says an October 9 statement endors-ed by more than 2,000 people representing various groups in India.
They have appealed Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren to oppose the priest’s arrest. The statement hailed Father Swamy as “a valued and public spiritedness citizen who has worked for Adivasi rights since decades in Jharkhand” and decried the “inhuman and insincere act of the NIA authorities.”
The priest’s arrest, it adds, “stands out for its sheer vindictiveness” since the priest had “fully cooperated with the investigating officers” who questioned him at his residence for more than 15 hours in July and August.
“Stan has consistently denied any link with extremist leftist forces or Maoists. He had also clearly told the NIA that some so-called extracts allegedly taken from his computer shown to him by the NIA were fake and fabricated and that he disowned them,” the statement explains.
NIA officials reportedly said investigations established the priest was actively 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.
The agency said they had seized documents and propaganda material of the Maoist and literature from the priest and that he was in contact with the other accused in the Koregaon-Bhima case that dates back to January 1, 2018, the day of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima Koregaon battle.
The celebration was marred by violence leading to death of one person and injuries to several others. Dalits and higher-caste Maratha people clashed in several parts of Maharashtra.