The National Investigation Agency has arrested 82-year-old human rights activist Father Stan Swamy from his Ranchi home in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune in December 2017 and will shift him to Mumbai, officials said on Friday. Swamy, who has been questioned twice earlier by Pune Police and the NIA, was taken from his residence Thursday evening and placed under arrest for links with the banned CPI(Maoist), the NIA officials alleged.
He will be moved to Mumbai where the agency will ask for his remand before the designated court, they said.
The cleric is the sixteenth person to be arrested in the case, in which people have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law UAPA.
NIA officials said investigations established he was actively involved in the activities of the CPI (Maoist). The NIA also alleged that he was in contact with “conspirators” — Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Hany Babu, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde – to further the group’s activities.
The agency alleged that Swamy had also received funds through an associate for furthering the agenda.
Besides, he is convenor of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC), a frontal organisation of the CPI(Maoist), the officials claimed.
They said literature, propaganda material of the CPI(Maoist) and documents related to communications for furthering the group’s programmes were seized from his possession.
In a video posted hours before his arrest, Swamy said the NIA had been interrogating him and had questioned him for 15 hours during a span of five days.
“Now they want me to go to Mumbai, which I have said that I won’t go,” he said, citing the pandemic.
The video, posted on YouTube, was recorded two days before his arrest.
“I have never been to Bhima Koregaon for which I am being made an accused,” he said.
He added that he had asked for questioning through video conference and hoped that better “human sense” would prevail.
“…what is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone, it is a broader process taking place all over the country. We all are aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, student leaders are all put in jail because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India,” Swamy said in the video.
He said he is part of “the process” and in a way happy to be so because he is not a silent spectator and is part of the game.
“I am ready to pay the price whatever be it,” Swamy said.
The Bhima Koregaon case was taken over by the NIA on January 24 this year. Pune Police has alleged that the violence was caused following speeches given by members of the group Elgar Parishad a day before.