Society of Jesuits working in 80 countries dismayed by arrest of Stan Swamy

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) working in more than 80 countries all over the world said they are deeply pained to know that an 83-year-old Jesuit and rights defender Father Stan Swamy has been arrested by National Investigation Agency from his residence in Ranchi.

On Thursday, the NIA inquiring into the Bhima Koregaon case has arrested Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy. The 83-year-old activist has been already questioned in the case on multiple occasions.

“We, as Jesuits involved in works of education, caring and defending the rights of the poor and the vulnerable all over the world, stand in solidarity with Stan and other human rights defenders in India and strongly condemn the arrest of Fr. Stan Swamy, demand immediate release and refrain from arbitrary arrests of innocent law abiding citizens,” reads a statement issued by the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES), Society of Jesus.

Swamy was brought to Mumbai where he was produced before a court on Friday and remanded to judicial custody till October 23.

“Fr. Stan, a human rights defender has been in Bagaicha, a Jesuit-run Social Action Centre, for the past 15 years, primarily working with the Adivasis, for the defense, propagation, and protection of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Fr. Stan’s room was raided twice, once on Aug. 28, 2018, and again on June 12, 2019, and he was questioned for more than 15 hours over a span of 5 days in July – August 2020,” it added.

The Christian umbrella organization said Stan professed his commitment to the Constitution of India and peaceful means of expressing dissent while questioning any form injustice done to the vulnerable adivasis by state and police.

“He always dared to speak truth to power and expose the large-scale abuse of power using anti-terror and sedition laws and land grabbing without due process of consultation as required. He also meticulously documented and published the untold sufferings of hundreds of Adivasi youth, who were falsely implicated and imprisoned for exercising their right to defend their resources,” the statement noted

Swamy who is also a founder member of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, a peoples’ movement against displacement, is charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, 

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.

NIA on Friday said it filed a charge-sheet against eight people, including Stan Swamy, “for their alleged involvement in inciting a mob to violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018”.

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.