Ranchi, June 12, 2019: A human rights group in Jharkhand, eastern India, has condemned what it called repeated raids on Jesuit social activist Father Stan Swamy.
“The raids and arrests are part of the government’s growing attempts to stifle dissent and intimidate those who are fighting for justice,” the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (Grand council of people’s rights in Jharkhand) said June 12 soon after the police raid.
An eight-member team of the Maharashtra police raided the Bagaicha campus, the 83-year-old priest’s residence at Namkum near Ranchi, the Jharkhand state capital. The raid that started at 7:15 am continued for 3.5 hours.
The Maharashtra police had earlier raided the priest’s residence on August 28, 2018.
In the latest raid, the police searched the priest’s belongings and took his computer hard disk and internet modem and forced him to give his email and Facebook passwords. Thereafter, they changed the passwords and seized these accounts.
“The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha condemns repeated raids on Stan Swamy and arrests of other human rights activists,” the statement said.
The rights group noted that the Jesuit priest has worked for the rights of Adivasis and other underprivileged groups in Jharkhand. He has taken up issues such as displacement, corporate loot of resources, the condition of under-trials and Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA).
The priest, popularly known as Stan, has criticized the Jharkhand government’s attempts to amend land laws and the land acquisition act in the state. He is also a strong advocate of the Forest Rights Act, PESA and related laws.
“He is an exceptionally gentle, honest and public-spirited person. Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has the highest regard for him and his work,” the statement said.
The rights group also recalled the arrest of Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, and Rona Wilson on June 6, 2018 and their continued imprisonment in the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune.
On August 28, 2018, the police arrested five more activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha. They too are yet to be released.
“These imprisonments are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for the rights of the marginalized,” the statement explained.
The federal government and a section of media allege that these people were part of a Maoist conspiracy related to the Bhima-Koregaon incident.
“This concocted story seems to be part of a larger propaganda, based on terms like “urban Naxals”, aimed at stifling any criticism of the government. The raids and arrests are part of the government’s growing attempts to stifle dissent and intimidate those who are fighting for justice,” the rights group alleged.
The group demanded immediate end to the raids, dropping all “false charges” against human rights activists across the country and release of those arrested. “These harassments are politically motivated and wholly unjustified,” it further added.
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