The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested 83-year-old social activist Father Stan Swamy from his residence near Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case on Thursday. Swamy alleged that fake evidence had been planted in his computer before he was arrested by the NIA.
Swamy had been questioned as a suspect in the case by the investigating agencies, including by the Pune police in 2018 and also by the NIA on several occasions since 2018.
He is likely to be produced before the special NIA court on Friday, where the agency may seek his custody.
Swamy is known for fighting for tribals rights in the state of Jharkhand and was part of the Jharkhand Organisation against Uranium Radiation (JOAR), a campaign run against Uranium Corporation India Limited in 1996. He has been working for welfare and rights of displaced people of Bokaro, Santhal Parganas and Koderma.
A senior NIA official, who confirmed the arrest, said Swamy was a member of CPI (Maoist) and was actively involved in the activities of the banned outfit.
“He also received funds through an associate for the furtherance of CPI (Maoist) activities. He is the convenor of persecuted prisoners’ solidarity committee (PPSC), a frontal organization of CPI (Maoist). The documents related to aiding the activities of CPI (Maoist) and propaganda material of the banned outfit, including its literature, were seized from his possession,” the NIA official said on the condition of anonymity.
Swamy had approached the Bombay High court in October 2018 for quashing the complaint filed against him in this case. His lawyer Mihir Desai had then submitted to the court that PPSC has no political colour.
“The persecuted prisoners solidarity committee is formed by the elite in the society with the aim of assisting prisoners, unnecessarily languishing in various jails in several states and it has no political colour,” reads the submissions made by Desai, mentioned in the court order.
The prosecution had also claimed then that Swamy is just considered a suspect and not an accused. The court had dismissed the plea. Two years later, the NIA, which took over the probe in January this year, again began probing his role in the violence case.
In a statement released just before he was arrested, Swamy said, “The nature of the present NIA investigation of me has nothing to do about Bhima-Koregaon case in which I have been booked as a ‘suspected-accused ’ and consequently raided twice (28 August 2018 and 12 June 2019). 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 related to some Maoists. I denied both these allegations in the strongest terms.” Bagaicha is a Jesuit-run social centre, where Swamy lives in a room.
Swamy also alleged that NIA fabricated evidence against him. “I was interrogated by NIA for 15 hours during a span of 5 days (July 27 to July 30 and on August 6). Apart from my bio-data and some factual information, several extracts allegedly taken from my computer implicating my connection to Maoist forces were placed before me. I told them all these are fabrications stealthily put into my computer and I disowned them.”