Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Innocent of all charges he spent five years in prison
for his commitment to the marginalized and victims of violence. Because,
he explains, since September 2001, the Indian government has promoted a "security"
policy which also targeted social activism. His
indictment, false, is for having collaborated with and membership of the Maoist
Naxalite movement, but even amid violence and abuse in prison he never lost his
faith and hope, which enabled him to regain freedom. This is the story that
Arun Ferreira, Scripture Scholar and Seminary Professor and Parish Priest yesterday told the parish of St. Peter, in Bandra Mumbai
(Maharashtra), on the occasion of the day - Sunday, August 5 - that the Indian Church
dedicates to the prison ministry. "A story of hope"
for Fr. Errol
Fernandes, which reminds us of "the daily challenge of Christ
crucified" and resurrected.
Arun Ferreira, 39, studied at St. Xavier College in Mumbai and from a young age was active in society. In the period 1992-93 he helped the thousands of Muslim victims of violence at the hands of Hindu extremists in Babri Masjid. He later joined the student movement Vidyarthi Pragati Sanghatan, which proposed to build a democratic and egalitarian Indian society.
However, the attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001 caused a radical change in government policies, which began to see popular movements as a hostile enemy to be vanquished. "The organizations were banned," said the man, "their ideas listed and social organizations branded as terrorist." This is why those who used to bring help to the oppressed in the tribal areas of countryside were accused of "Maoism" and arrested.
In the months before his arrest, many Dalit activists were arrested and imprisoned. "Despite the climate - continued Arun Ferreira - I never thought I too would be targeted by the government." In May 2007 he was imprisoned, with general allegations of being a member of the Naxalite movement. He suffered violence and abuse, evidence was fabricated against him that led to his sentencing, but this was not enough. In September 2010 the court ordered the release of Nagpur, but in a short time he was re-arrested by plainclothes agents, with generic allegations of violations of the prison regime during his time behind bars.
Finally, January 4, 2012, his release on bail and return to full freedom. Arun said, he was sustained during his years in prison by "the spiritual help of my parents during their visits to prison" and "legal assistance" received from friends.
Fr. Errol Fernandes, researcher and university professor, told AsiaNews that his story is "a story of hope" for the support received from family (a "enlarged" family, which includes friends and colleagues at university). He never lost the will to fight for justice and truth, earning a master's degree during his years in prison. His story, the priest continues, "invites us to go beyond the pain of the moment, the injustices and errors." Like Jesus, he teaches us how to carry the cross to earn the final resurrection and testifies that "we can withstand any challenge or difficulty" because of faith. (NC)