Bhima Koregaon: NIA arrests 83-year-old tribal rights activist Stan Swamy

Illustraion: Aditya Krishnamurthy, India Development Review

The National Investigation Agency inquiring into the Bhima Koregaon case has arrested Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy on Thursday, The Wire reported.

The 83-year-old activist has been questioned in the case on multiple occasions.

Swamy had released a statement two days ago that he feared he would be forcibly taken away. In the statement, he said that he was interrogated by the agency for at least 15 hours between July 27 and July 30 and then again on August 6. 

After Swamy was arrested, Swamy’s colleagues released a video statement he had recorded two days ago.

According to The Wire, Swamy, who is suffering from multiple ailments, is the oldest person to be arrested in the case so far.

Swamy who has spent many decades fighting for the rights of Adivasis in Jharkhand, is a founder member of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, a peoples’ movement against displacement.

Swamy is the 16th person to be arrested in the Elgar Parishad case. A total of 15 people have been arrested in the case so far. In 2018, as part of a massive crackdown on human rights defenders in India, 9 prominent activists– Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, and Varavara Rao were arrested by the Pune Police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case. Two years later, the crackdown on human rights defenders continues with the arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, and Jyoti Jagtap.

Earlier, Swamy’s colleague told media that NIA on Thursday took Swamy into custody without a warrant from the Bagaicha campus in Ranchi.

“He was forcibly taken away from the Bagaicha campus, where he has been residing for years. The NIA personnel roughed him up and were arrogant,” said his colleague. He also said NIA officials refused to show a warrant.

On 28 August 2018 and on 12 June 2019, the Pune city police had raided Swamy’s residence in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case.

Many international and national rights groups and activists have been expressing their deep concern at the actions of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its investigation of the Bhima-Koregaon case.