The National Investigation Agency on Thursday arrested human rights activist Stan Swamy from Ranchi, Jharkhand, his colleagues said. Swamy, a Jesuit priest has previously been questioned in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Swamy was taken into custody from the Jesuit-run Bagaicha social centre, where he lives. “No warrant was presented,” a colleague on the campus said. “NIA people were rough and arrogant. They said he [Swamy] was accused and a senior officer wants to meet him at the NIA office in Ranchi.” However, it is not clear where the activist was taken.
In a statement released earlier in the day, Swamy said he had recently been interrogated by the central agency for 15 hours over a span of five days – July 27 to July 30 and then on August 6. The investigating officials presented several extracts of information allegedly taken from his computer implicating his connection to “Maoist forces”.
“I told them all these are fabrications stealthily put into my computer and I disowned them,” Swamy said.
The activist added that the thrust of the NIA investigation had nothing to do with the Bhima Koregaon case, in which he has been booked as a “suspected-accused”. His Ranchi home has been raided twice – once on August 28, 2018, and June 12, 2019, in that connection. “But it had everything to do to somehow establish (i) that I am personally linked to extremist leftist forces, (ii) that through me Bagaicha is also relating to some Maoists,” Swamy said. “I denied both these allegations in strongest terms.”
The activist asked why the NIA did not consider interrogating him through video conference, given his age and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“After six weeks of silence, I am being summoned to appear in NIA-office in Mumbai. I have informed them (i) that I fail to understand the need for interrogating me further given the fact I have been subjected to that for 15 hours already, (ii) that I am not in a position to undertake the long journey given my age (83) and the nature of the epidemic ravaging the country. Besides Jharkhand State Govt has given a directive that during the lockdown period elderly persons above the age of 65 may not appear in public, (iii) that if the investigating agency wants to interrogate me further it can be done through video-conference.”— Stan Swamy
Swamy added that if the central agency would insist taking him to Mumbai, he would refuse citing the same reasons.
After he was detained, Swamy’s colleagues released a video statement he had recorded two days ago.
On June 12, 2019, an eight-member team of the Pune city police had raided Swamy’s residence for a second time in connection with the Elgar Parishad event that preceded the violence between Dalits and Marathas at Bhima Koregaon near Pune in 2018. They had previously raided his residence on August 28, 2018,
At the time, Swamy refuted the claims about his alleged links to banned organisations. The activist speculated that his work as the convener of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee and his campaign to increase awareness about their rights among Dalit and Adivasi communities may have led to him being targeted.
In a statement released in 2019, the activist had released a detailed statement, appealing to the “nation’s conscience” to consider the facts of the investigation.
“India has vowed to be a socialist, secular, democratic republic,” Swamy wrote. “Sadly, all these values are steadily being eroded in the present political developments. About 20 intellectuals, professionals, activists who are working for the fundamental rights of the poor and marginalised and upholding the above mentioned constitutional values are being labeled ‘urban naxals’ and are being harassed no end either as ‘accused’ or as ‘suspects’.”