ASIA/INDIA - Campaign for the release of the Jesuit accused of sedition on the basis of manipulated evidence

Tuesday, 20 October 2020 human rights   jesuits   civil society   orders  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - "We will be relentless until Father Stan Swamy and all human rights defenders who are falsely imprisoned are released unconditionally. We are alongside those who dedicate their lives to the mission of creating an India and a more just, equitable, free, humane and fraternal world. We will do everything possible, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to carry out this mission": this is what was said by Fr. Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit committed to the promotion of human rights and the social integration in India, reporting to Agenzia Fides of the campaign, carried out through demonstrations, but also on social media - with the motto "We Stand with Stan" – in support of the release of father Stan Swamy SJ. The 83-year-old Jesuit priest, known for his dedication alongside the indigenous peoples in the northwestern state of Jharkhand, was arrested on 8 October by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on heavy charges, totally rejected by the religious and by the Indian Catholic Church. According to NIA, he is a member of the Maoist armed party, guilty of sedition and terrorism. The Jesuit has been transferred to pre-trial detention in Mumbai and will remain there until the 23 October. His defenders claim that he was "put in front of constructed and manipulated evidence".
As his confreres point out, Fr. Swamy has been engaged for years in the defense of the rights of the Adivasis - indigenous populations - especially with regard to the issue relating to their ancestral lands, protecting them from large economic groups that want to use them for industrial or exploitation projects. Two days before his arrest, Fr. Stan Swami had reported the plight of the Adivasis in prison, challenging the arrest of thousands of indigenous young people defined as "Maoists" only because "they question and resist the unjust alienation and uprooting from their land".
This, defenders believe, could constitute the main accusation on which the arrest of the religious is based.
As Father Prakash reminds Fides, in recent weeks 16 other people have been arrested on similar charges, including well-known human rights defenders such as Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj, both lawyers, and Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao, writers. Fr Prakash adds: "The situation of respect for human rights and the lives of human rights promoters in India is going from bad to worse. Civil society groups and individuals continue to be intimidated by the authorities. It is possible to say that the vibrant Indian civil society is under attack aimed at killing it in a calculated manner. Whatever happens, our campaign will continue without stopping". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/10/2020)