The Ranchi Catholic Church Friday issued a statement on the arrest of Father Stan Swamy saying they are “distressed” and “troubled” in the way the 83-year old was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“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 Fr. Stan Swamy and could reach his residence only after darkness had fallen,” the body said in a statement.
Father Stan Swamy is a Jesuit priest and a tribal rights activist based in Jharkhand. He has worked in the state for over three decades on various issues of the Adivasi communities on land, forest and labour rights.
On Thursday, Swamy was taken into custody from his Ranchi home in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case. He was brought to Mumbai from Ranchi and produced before a court at 1.30 pm today which then directed him to be sent in judicial custody till October 23. He will be lodged at Taloja central jail.
“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 specially since he was pleading with them, telling them that it was night and he was a sick man,” the Church said.
The Church, in its statement, also alleged that Fr. Stan “has not eaten anything since yesterday (Thursday)” and sought a clarification from the NIA for the same. It also issued an appeal to authorities “who have a say in this matter” to “release Swamy immediately” and restore him to his own residence.
“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, that health safeguards imposed on society may also be held valid for prisoners and those accused,” the Church said.
The case relates to an FIR filed on January 8 in Pune related to an event organised at Shaniwar Wada called Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017. The Pune police arrested activists claiming that the event was organised as part of alleged Maoist activity and the accused were its members.
It claimed that the event led to the violence which took place on January 1, 2018, at Bhima Koregaon, where lakhs of Dalits had gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, won by the British army— which comprised largely soldiers from the Dalit community— against the Peshwas in 1818. After the initial probe by the Pune police for two years, the case was transferred to NIA in January this year.
The accused, including Swamy, have denied any Maoist links and have said that they are being targeted.
Swamy said the NIA falsely implicated his connection with Maoist forces. 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.