By Matters India Reporter
Ranchi: An 82-year-old Jesuit activist on September 3 dismissed as “complete concoction and absolute falsehood” a police allegation that he has links with Maoists and banned organizations.
Father Stan Lourdusamy was among nine human rights activists who were raided in a pre-dawn simultaneous action across several cities on August 28 by the officials of the Maharashtra police’s Crime Branch. The special police team from the western Indian state arrested five people on charges of supporting Maoists engaged in anti-national activities, including a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Although the police spared the Jesuit priest from the arrest, they seized from his place in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state, several items such as computers, laptop, cell phones, SIM cards, iPod, compact discs and tribal literatures.
The priest, who is popularly known as Father Stan Swamy, has worked several decades among tribal people of Jharkhand, eastern India, educating them about their constitutional rights.
The Maharashtra police said the raids were linked to a public meeting held in Pune city on Dec. 31, 2017, before violent clashes occurred between Dalits and higher-caste Maratha people in the Bhima Koregaon area and several other parts of Maharashtra in early January.
Police arrested activists Varavara Rao from Hyderabad and Gautam Navlakha from Delhi. Others arrested were activist lawyers Vernon Gonsalves from Mumbai, Arun Ferreira from Thane and Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad.
In a statement on September 3, the Jesuit priest says he fears that his activities among the tribal people have angered “the powerful interests” within the government.
These groups had earlier foisted a case of sedition against him and several others in Jharkhand. The latest case linking him with banned organizations at national level aims to discredit him along with intellectuals, legal professionals and social activists, who have raised their voices for the rights of poorest of poor people all over India, the priest says.
On August 31, Parambir Singh, Additional Director-General (law and order) of the Maharashtra police, told a press conference in Mumbai that a letter Bharadwaj wrote to the Jesuit forced them to include his name in the First Information Report on the Bhima Koregaon incident.
The initial FIR was registered on January 8, but the priest’s name was added 15 days later.
This letter, according to Maharashtra police, mentions that for the work of PPSC [Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee] Stan Swamy had been appointed by comrade Prashant. It is also mentioned in the aforesaid letter that Sudha Bharadwaj had asked Stan Swamy to provide some funds for the activities of CPI (Maoist), but Stan Swamy did not make any definite commitment in this regard.
In response the Jesuit wrote this:
“I would like to make it clear on my part with regard to the content of the said letter that Sudha Bhardwaj never asked me for any fund for the activities as mentioned in the letter. It is nothing but complete concoction and absolute falsehood that is being propagated by the Maharashtra police. Sudha Bhardwaj has also repeatedly denied the veracity of the said letter and has said that it is a fabricated letter.”
“Further, I believe that the possible reason behind this concoction of the case against me along with Sudha Bhardwaj is that I have been the convener of Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) formed in December, 2015. I wish to make it clear that PPSC was formed purely to help under trial prisoners and it has no link whatsoever with any banned organizations. I have also filed a PIL in the Jharkhand High Court at Ranchi for the speedy trial of the under trial prisoners, languishing in the jails of Jharkhand. Taking serious note of my PIL, Hon’ble Jharkhand High Court on January 8, 2018, ordered the state of Jharkhand to provide all relevant and necessary information from all the jails of Jharkhand which must reveal the reasons for undue delay in the trial of these under trial prisoners. Still the proceedings in said PIL are going on in Jharkhand High Court.”
“In addition to this PIL, I have been raising awareness among Adivasi and Dalit people for their rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution especially the rights of the adibasi community provided in the Fifth Schedule and their right of self governance through Gram Sabhas as provided in PESA Act; I have also tried to make them aware of the judgment of the Supreme Court that ‘the owner of the land is also the owner of the subsoil minerals.’ I have also raised voice against the formation of Land Bank that intends to take over the “commons” such as roads, rivers, ponds, burial grounds, community forest lands etc which are traditionally used by the community.”