10/10/2020.- Last Friday, October 9, we received with dismay the news of the arrest of Father Stan Swamy SJ, an 83 year old Indian Jesuit, founder of Bagaicha, a Social Action Centre run by the Jesuits where he has worked for the last 15 years.
The arrest took place the day before in Ranchi, Jharkhand (India) by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). According to the latest information, Father Stan has been taken to Mumbai to be questioned in the Elgar Parishad event that preceded the violence between Dalits and Marathas at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on December 31, 2017. The NIA accuses him of personal links with the banned extremist groups of Maoists and Naxalites. Stan is the latest one among the 16 people arrested including well-known rights defenders Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj, both lawyers, and Vernon Gonsalvez and Varavara Rao both writers.
In response to his arrest the Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology (SJES) of the Society of Jesus has issued a statement in solidarity with Father Stan highlighting his record of work in defending and protecting the rights of Adivasi communities in India, which are enshrined in the Constitution. In recent times his work has been increasingly restricted by the State and the police. Fr. Stan’s room was raided twice, once on 28 August 2018 and once on 12 June 2019, and he was interrogated for more than 15 hours within 5 days in July – August 2020. This is undoubtedly a worrying symptom of the increasing criminalisation and harassment of human rights defenders in the region.
As stated in the SJES’s declaration:
Stan professed his commitment to the Constitution of India and peaceful means of expressing dissent while questioning any form injustice done to the vulnerable adivasis by state and police. He always dared to speak truth to power and expose the large-scale abuse of power using anti-terror and sedition laws and land grabbing without due process of consultation as required. He also meticulously documented and published the untold sufferings of hundreds of Adivasi youth, who were falsely implicated and imprisoned for exercising their right to defend their resources.
For this reason, we, the Mining Justice Network, want to show solidarity with Father Stan and with the communities with which he has worked all his life. You can watch the video he recorded before his arrest and spread the information on networks using the hashtag #StandWithStan #ReleaseStanSwamy
In India they have also launched a collection of signatures to demand their immediate release, you can sign here: https://www.change.org/p/devendra-fadnavis-appeal-for-fr-stan-swamy