10/23/2019, 10.03
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Assets of Ranchi activist priest seized

by Nirmala Carvalho

Fr Stan Swamy, 83, is a Jesuit who is fighting for the rights of tribals and against the expropriation of their forests. The confiscation order was justified for his absence at the hearing of the trial against him. Activists: "The government wants to quell dissent".

Ranchi (AsiaNews) - The Ranchi police (Jharkhand), have seized all the assets of Fr. Stan Swamy because he was not present at a hearing where he is the defendant at trial.

The 83-year-old Jesuit priest is a famous local activist who fights for the rights of adivasis (indigenous groups), against the expropriation of tribal lands and to guarantee better conditions for prisoners. Activists of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha [Jjm, Grand Council of the Rights of the People of Jharkhand, ed.] condemn the seizure of the priest's property and demand the withdrawal of all "empty charges" against him.

On October 21, about thirty police officers from the Indian state went to the priest's residence on the Bagaicha campus in Namkum (near Ranchi) and carried out the seizure. The measure was authorized by the judicial authorities, who declared the priest "fugitive".

Fr Stan is among the activists who at the end of August 2018 the Indian police accused of treason, terrorism and complicity with the Maoist guerrillas. The authorities accuse all the defendants of inciting the Dalit protest that in January 2018 erupted in clashes and one death. Specifically, the Jesuit would be "guilty" of having written a post on Facebook asking for the respect of the rights of the Sarna tribals.

In addition to the priest, five well-known faces in the country's cultural scene were arrested and are still in prison. They are: Varavara Rao, writer and poet of Hyderabad; Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer and secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties; Gautam Navlakha, journalist and activist for Kashmir; Vernon Gonsalves, writer from Mumbai; Arun Ferreira, a Mumbai lawyer accused in 2012 (and acquitted) of complicity with the Naxalites (Maoist guerrillas active in northeastern India). The Jesuit, on the other hand, was released on bail after a few days and returned to reside on campus of Bagaicha. Also this year his home was searched several times for evidence.

According to JJM activists, foreclosure of assets "indicates an attempt by the police to ensure that Stan's appeal [to be held today, ed] for the cancellation of the arrest warrant becomes unsuccessful". "Harassment is completely unjustified and falls under the government's growing attempts to stifle silence and intimidate those fighting for justice."

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