09/30/2011, 00.00
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Police kidnap Arun Ferreira, activist for Dalits and tribals

by Nirmala Carvalho
Just after he was released after four years of imprisonment and torture, plainclothes agents stopped him, hooded him and took him away without a mandate. His lawyers were beaten when they intervened to stop the kidnapping. For Fr. Allwyn D'Silva, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Mumbai, this shows "complete disregard by the state for human rights." Fr. Cedric Prakash, director of the Prashant Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace: "He is innocent, and deserves justice."
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "The warrantless arrest of Arun Ferreira once again demonstrates the state's complete disregard for human rights." This is the opinion of Fr. Allwyn D'Silva, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Mumbai and uncle of the activist for the rights of tribals and Dalits. In prison since 2007 due to an accusation of being a Nassalite (a Maoist guerrilla), on September 27 a special court in Maharashtra acquitted the man and ordered his release. Which, in fact, never happened: just after he was released from Nagpur prison, plainclothes officers stopped him, covered his face and forced him into an unmarked car, in which they fled. All under the gaze of his elderly parents, who were waiting for him outside the prison. His lawyers tried to intervene but were beaten.

His lawyers immediately sent a letter to the Commissioner to ask for the reasons of the arrest, but have not yet received and answer.

According to Fr. Allwyn, the new arrest – like that of 2007 – is linked to his struggle to defend the rights of the most marginalized in society, because "there are many cases like Arun's of false accusations against those who defend the rights of the weakest".

Fr. Cedric Prakash is of the same opinion. Prakash, who is director of the Prashant Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, signed a petition to the chief minister of Maharashtra, asking that Arun Ferreira be released immediately.

"This episode", the Jesuit explains, "is a terrible stain on a country that believes in democracy and in the freedom of each individual citizen. Arun Ferreira is an innocent man. He fought for the rights of tribesmen, for their forests and for the Dalits who were killed. He has been subjected to inhumane torture. A special court had declared his incarceration null and had cleared all charges."

"Always", continued Fr. Prakash, "the Catholic Church has been the side of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed and anyone who is denied his rights and his dignity. Arun Ferreira deserves justice, he must be able to live as a free man. "
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