A special NIA court in Mumbai on Friday remanded 83-year-old human rights activist Father Stan Swamy, arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad-alleged Maoist links case, in judicial custody till October 23. He was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from his Ranchi residence on Thursday evening. Swamy will now be lodged in Taloja Jail along with other co-accused in the case.
In a video-statement recorded before his arrest, the activist said that he was interrogated by the NIA for 15 hours and that the agency wanted him to come to Mumbai for further interrogation which he had refused because of his age and risk during the pandemic. He was ready for interrogation through video-conferencing, he said.
He added that what is happening to him is not unique, but part of a broader process taking place all over the country. “We have seen how intellectuals, lawyers, poets, writers, activists are put in jail because they have expressed dissent or raised questions about the ruling power,” he said in the video. He further said that he was being "falsely implicated" and had "never been to Bhima-Koregaon" in his life.
Who is Stan Swamy? All you need to know about the 83-year-old Jharkhand tribal rights activist sent to judicial custody
Father Stan Swamy is a Jesuit priest and has been advocating for the land, forest and labour rights of Jharkhand’s Adivasis for the past three decades. "This includes questioning the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which stipulated setting up of a Tribes Advisory Council with members solely of the Adivasi community for their protection, well-being and development in the state," said a report.
"Swamy’s work also involves opposition to the setting up of 'land banks', which he argues would free up land belonging to the community to set up small and big industries," added the report.
He was also a part of the Jharkhand Organisation against Uranium Radiation (JOAR), a campaign which was run against Uranium Corporation India Limited in 1996. Swamy has also been working for welfare and rights of displaced people of Bokaro, Santhal Parganas and Koderma.
Meanwhile, the NIA has claimed that Swamy is a member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and has received funds for its activities. The agency also claimed to have seized documents and propaganda material of the organisation from him.
"During the searches, the documents related to communications for furthering the activities of CPI (Maoist) and propaganda material of the CPI (Maoist) and literature were seized from his (Swamy's) possession," an NIA official told IANS. The official said that Swamy is convenor of PPSC, frontal organisation of CPI (Maoist).
The official further said that he was also found to be in contact with some of the conspirators namely Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Hany Babu, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde etc. for the furtherance of Maoist activities.
(With input from agencies)