Human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties on Thursday expressed shock over activist Stan Swamy’s arrest by the National Investigation Agency in the Bhima Koregaon case. The organisation said that “inhuman and insensitive” action of the authorities stood out for its “sheer vindictiveness”. It also demanded the 83-year-old activist’s immediate release.

“PUCL is shocked by and condemns the detention and arrest by NIA police team of 83-year-old Fr. [father] Stan Swamy from his residence in Bagaicha, Ranchi to take him to Mumbai to be remanded in the Bhima Koregaon (BK) case for allegedly being part of the larger conspiracy to cause unrest,” the organisation said in a statement.

The organisation said that coercive action had been taken against Swamy despite the fact that he fully cooperated with the authorities.

“The inhuman and insincere act of the NIA authorities in arresting Fr. Stan stands out for its sheer vindictiveness for Fr. Stan fully cooperated with the Investigating officers of the NIA when they questioned him in the Jesuit Residence in  Bagaicha for over 15 hours, on July 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 6th August. Despite his advanced age and other age related ailments, Fr. Stan patiently answered all queries put to him. It should be noted that Fr. Stan’s residence was raided on 28th August,
2018 by the Pune Police then in charge of the BK case and his laptop, tablet, camera etc were seized.”

— People’s Union for Civil Liberties

PUCL called Swamy’s arrest “malicious and spiteful”, adding that he had denied having any link to Maoists. “He [Swamy] had also clearly told the NIA that some so called extracts allegedly taken from his computer shown to him by the NIA were fake and fabricated and that he disowned them,” the organisation said.

The organisation added that like several other academics and activists, the NIA wanted to arrest Swamy under fabricated conspiracy charges.

“What also exposes the NIA action as motivated is revealed by the fact that in October, 2018, the police told the Bombay HC that Fr. Stan was only a suspect and not an accused. Thereafter, for 6 weeks after he was questioned the NIA kept quiet. Now as the 6 month period for completing investigation after the arrest of Gautam Navalakha and Anand Teltumbde on 14th April, 2020 is approaching, the NIA wants to arrest Fr. Stan Swamy and possibly other activists under the completely fabricated and non-existent conspiracy of Bhima Koregaon case.”

— People’s Union for Civil Liberties

PUCL said that Swamy was arrested on fabricated charges because he had been brave enough to oppose the anti-terror and sedition laws of the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government in Jharkhand. “Fr. Stan has always professed his commitment to the Constitution of India and peaceful means of expressing dissent while questioning abuse of power by state executive and police,” PUCL said.

The organisation added that Swamy’s arrest showed that the state would do anything to crush dissent. “PUCL demands that the NIA immediately release Fr. Stan Swamy and refrain from carrying out these arbitrary and motivated arrests of innocent law abiding-citizens,” it added.

Swamy’s arrest

The 83-year-old activist was arrested on Thursday from the Jesuit-run Bagaicha social centre in Ranchi. His colleagues said that no warrant was provided for his arrest and that NIA officials were “rough and arrogant”.

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”.

A file photo of human rights activist Stan Swamy. | PTI Photo

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.”

In a video released two days before his arrest on Thursday, Swamy had said he was being forced by NIA to travel to Mumbai for interrogation in the Bhima Koregaon case. The 83-year-old said he refused to comply with the agency due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which made it unsafe for a person his age to travel.

Also read: Video: Two days before arrest, activist Stan Swamy claimed NIA was fabricating evidence against him