Pune cops raid home of state activist again

A Pune police team searched the home of Jharkhand-based social activist Father Stan Swamy

By Our Correspondent in Ranchi
  • Published 13.06.19, 12:06 AM
  • Updated 13.06.19, 12:06 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Stan Swamy speaks to the media in Ranchi on Wednesday (Prashant Mitra)

A Pune police team on Wednesday morning searched the home of Jharkhand-based social activist Father Stan Swamy in connection with the caste-related violence in Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra on January 1 last year, seizing, among other things, a hard disk, and taking control of his Facebook and e-mail accounts by changing their passwords.

The Pune team reached Tuesday night, sources said, and the search operation at the Namkum office of the NGO Bagaicha, where Swamy lives, was led by Yerwada assistant commissioner Shivaji Pawar. Personnel of the Namkum police station assisted in the operation.

Swamy, it is learnt, insisted on a search warrant. Pawar is learnt to have told him that he is a named suspect in the violence case and that police were entitled to search his premises for evidence.

“At around 7:15am, an eight-member team of the Maharashtra police once again raided the Bagaicha campus in Namkum near Ranchi, entered my residence. I am 83 years old and have been actively engaged for the welfare of the poor and tribals in Jharkhand for the last 40 years,” Swamy, a Jesuit priest, said in a statement.

“The police searched my belongings for about 3.5 hours. They took a hard disk, an Internet modem and forced me to give my e-mail and Facebook passwords. Thereafter, they changed the passwords and seized these accounts.

“Today’s raid comes 10 months after the first raid on August 28, 2018. In the last 10 months no substantial evidence has been provided to the court. I have not received things that were seized last time. Yet one more raid. I am ready to extend full cooperation to the investigation if it is done according to the law. I also have full faith in our judicial system to find the truth.”

The human rights organisation Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, with which noted economist Jean Drèze is associated, condemned the raid.

“The Mahasabha is shocked by the intimidation and arrests of activists and public intellectuals who are critical of the government and the ruling party at the Centre,” the Mahasabha statement said. “Last year, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, and Rona Wilson were arrested on June 6, and they continue to be held imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail. On August 28, 2018, the police arrested five more activists — Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha. They too are yet to be released. These imprisonments are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for the rights of the marginalized.”

The case pertains to the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune district on December 31, 2017, which, the police allege, was funded by Maoists. The speeches made by some activists at the conclave “aggravated” the violence near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial in Pune the next day, according to the charge sheet.

“This concocted story seems to be part of a larger propaganda, based on terms like ‘urban Naxals’, aimed at stifling any criticism of the government,” the Mahasabha statement said.

“The raids and arrests are part of the government’s growing attempts to stifle dissent and intimidate those who are fighting for justice.”

Rights activist Bharat Bhushan Choudhary had rushed to Bagaicha on Wednesday when he came to know of the raid.

“I thought that they are now going to arrest him (Swamy),” Choudhary said. “There is no evidence against him, but despite that he is being harassed. Swamy is a tribal and human rights activist and he always exposes wrong policies of the government; hence he is being hunted.”