For over 50 years the Jesuit priest has been on the frontlines to defend the forest rights of the Adivasi in Jharkhand. For months he had been interrogated and faced with manipulated evidence. "This is an attack on the poor". Under the government of the BJP (Hindu nationalist), Fr. Swamy was also accused of sedition.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Jesuit Fr. Stan Swarmy, 83, is the oldest person to be accused of terrorism. Last night, in Jharkhand, the priest activist and defender of tribal rights was arrested by the security forces (National Investigation Agency, Nia) and transferred to prison from the Bagaicha social centre, run by the Jesuits where he lives.
A colleague reports that the NIA officials were “rude and arrogant; they did not have a warrant. They said that the father was charged and that a senior officer wanted to meet him at the Nia office in Ranchi. " At present it is not known where the priest is being held.
Fr Swamy is no stranger to interrogation. Just yesterday he released a statement in which he said he had already been interrogated for a total of 15 hours and for five consecutive days, from 27 to 30 July and 6 August. The interrogating officer showed him pieces of information apparently taken from his computer that showed his connection with "Maoist forces".
Fr. Swamy explains: "“I told them all these are fabrications stealthily put into my computer and I disowned them.”
Fr Michael Kerketta, also a Jesuit, Indian theologian and professor at the Ranchi Regional Theological Center, tells AsiaNews: “I know Fr. Stan Swamy personally. He is a very committed person with the poorest of the poor, with tribals, the marginalized, for dignity and human rights. This is most unfortunate, it is an attack on the poor. We are very worried about his health”.
Fr Swamy, being an elderly man, suffers from some difficulties. Originally from Kerala, he spent nearly 50 years in the Jharkhand tribal region working for the forest rights of the Adivasi community. He expressed criticism of the police's excesses of violence and of the government, which has failed to enforce the law on the defense of tribals. From time to time he defends the young Adivasi who are indiscriminately incarcerated.
With the BJP (Hindu nationalist) government in Jharkhand, Swamy and several of his colleagues were charged with sedition, but the charges were dropped after Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha came to power.
Lawyer Mihir Desai says the present accusation of terrorism dates back to a public meeting in Pune, held on 31 December 2017 in which - according to the police and the NIA - Fr Swamy gave inflamed speeches, which led to violence in Maharashtra. Hence the accusation of links with the Maoists.
"We strongly condemn the arrest of Fr Stan Swamy,” Fr. George Pattery, former Jesuit superior of the South Asia province. "It is very unpleasant and it is an illegal way of doing things, intolerable. We cannot accept an arrest without a warrant”.
Jairam Ramesh, congressman for Karnataka, calls what happened "outrageous". "I know Fr. Swamy - he adds - and I am well aware of his work among the Adivasis. This is Prime Minister Modi's typical tactic of beating up and intimidating social activists. All this is atrocious!”.