The National Investigation agency (NIA) on Thursday picked up 83 years old social and human rights worker Fr. Stan Swamy from his ashram Bagaicha, in Ranchi. Fr. Swamy was previously questioned and booked as a “suspected-case” in the Bhima Koregaon case.
In a video statement released by his colleagues earlier today, Fr. Swamy said the NIA officers had interrogated him recently for 15 hours over a span of five days. He alleged that the officers were trying to implicate him for having connections with “Maoist forces”, based on extracts of information from his computer. Fr. Stan Swamy stated that those information were stealthily put into his computer by the investigating agencies and he disowned them.
Transcript of the statement recorded by Fr. Stan Swamy
I wish to start this video by saying the context in which I am. Right now, NIA is interrogating me. They have done 15 hours of interrogation and still they want me to go to Bombay, to which I’m saying, I will not go to Bombay, for reasons that I’ll explain later.
Now a little background about my being and active in Jharkhand in the context of Jharkhand becoming a separate state. And so, everybody wanted it but then the issues were there. The issues were specially displacement, land alienation because of mining, accidents, townships, dams. And people were not taken into confidence. Hardly… only minimal compensation was being paid to them. So, we took it as a challenge and said how young people can take this as a life issue and fight it out. In this process, some very helpful rulings or laws were passed by the Indian parliament. Particularly, PESA Act which gave significant power to the Gram Sabha, whatever happens in the village for it to be consulted and to get its consent. The other is the Land Acquisition Act which for the first time recognizes the need to get the consent of the people, of the land-owners and a fair compensation to them. So this kind of opened the way for us and people started to claim their rights. But as they claimed, they were just being thrown into jail.
So, in 2017, I gave a call to whoever I knew, not only in Jharkhand but in all the central tribal states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal. So we came together, we had formed a body called Persecuted Prisoners’ Solidarity Committee, and through that we had planned to take up… first to do a study of the nature of undertrial prisoners in all these states and then to have recourse to legal action so that justice can be done. In this process I have filed a case against the Jharkhand state in Jharkhand High Court on behalf of about 3000 young Adivasis who were languishing in the jail. It is this bone of contention with the state, and they wanted to put me out of the way, and one easy way was to implicate me in some serious cases. And then this case, it so happens – the Bhima Koregaon, a place where I’ve never been to in my life – I was implicated there, I was raided twice. First it was done by Pune Police, and the case was forcibly taken away by NIA. They have done interrogation of me for about 15 hours in the month of July. I was interrogated for 15 hours during a span of 5 days. Apart from my bio data and some factual information about PPSC, about Pathalgadi issue, about Bhima-Koregaon movement etc., for which whatever they asked I provided. And some person whom I had come across in this process, they started to put before me certain extracts supposedly taken from my computer, extracts which were you know Maoists communicating with each other, and in some extracts my name was mentioned, so they said, “Where did you meet?” My first question was, “Who is the person writing? To whom was it written? On which date it is written? Is there a signature to what is written?” None of that was there. So I just denied and disowned every single extract which was put before me except for one where Sudha Bhardwaj and myself – we were the co-conveners of the PPSC – we had a call to all human rights organizations all over the country, explaining what PPSC is about and requesting them, pleading them to join hands so that it’s a common effort. So, these extracts were all interpolations put into my computer, so I took that stance very clearly.
And finally, now they are even asking me to go to Bombay for further interrogation, which I’m refusing to go. Because… my age, I have certain ailments, there is the epidemic which is ravaging the country, and the Jharkhand govt. itself has given direction that elderly people may not travel or appear in public. Even these I don’t want to risk myself and on the other hand I’m ready for further interrogation if NIA would want it, but through video conference. This is something I’m communicating to them and let us hope that some human sense will prevail and if it does not, I’m ready and I hope all of us, all those who know me and are concerned about me will also be ready to face what is to be faced. I end by saying, what is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone. It’s a broader process that is taking place all over the country. We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, student leaders – they have all been put into jail just because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India. So, we are part of the process. As such, in a way I’m happy to be part of this process because I’m not a silent spectator, but I’m part of it, part of the game. I’m ready to pay the price, whatever be it.
Thank you for your attention.