06/13/2019, 17.10
INDIA
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The home of an 83-year-old priest in Ranchi searched

by Nirmala Carvalho

Fr Stan Swamy is an advocate for the rights of Dalits, tribal people victims of land grabs and inmates entitled to a free and fair trial. Police agents seized his computer's hard disk and changed passwords to his e-mail and Facebook accounts. Activist group slams the police for their action.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – For the second time in the last few months, Maharashtra police yesterday searched the home of Fr Stan Swamy looking for evidence in connection with a case.

The 83-year-old Jesuit priest is a well known in Ranchi (Jharkhand) as an advocate for the rights of the Adivasi, of tribal people threatened with land grabs, and of prison inmates.

As soon as news broke about the police operation, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha group (Jharkhand People's Great Council of Rights) issued a statement condemning the repeated raids against Stan Swamy and the arrest of other human rights activists.

The association 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” in New Delhi.

The raid began at around 7.15 am yesterday and lasted for more than three hours. A previous raid took place on 28 August 2018.

The group complains that Fr Stan was forced to hand over his computer's hard drive and wi-fi modem to the police who also forced him to give them the passwords to his e-mail and Facebook page. Then they changed them and blocked the accounts.

Fr Stan is one of the activists who were accused by police of treason, terrorism and complicity with Maoist guerrillas in late August 2018. The priest was arrested in connection with this case along with five well-known public figures who are still in prison.

The Jesuit clergyman was released on bail after a few days and went home to the Bagaicha campus in Namkum, near Ranchi, where the latest search was carried out.

The authorities accuse all the defendants of inciting Dalits to protest, which led to clashes and one death in January 2018.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, met in the city of Pune, Maharasthra, to mark the bicentennial of a battle fought in the village of Bhima-Koregaon, considered the first victory of the Dalits against the oppression of their masters.

According to the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, "The raids and arrests are part of the government’s growing attempts to stifle dissent and intimidate those who are fighting for justice."

Hence, the group “demands an immediate end to the raids, dropping of all false charges against human rights activists across the country and release of those who are arrested. These harassments are politically motivated and wholly unjustified.”

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