NEW DELHI/RANCHI: The National Investigation Agency, which has arrested 83-year-old Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy from his Ranchi home in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune in December 2017, will shift the latter 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.
"The NIA team arrived at Bagaicha social centre, where Swamy lives, at around 8 PM, confiscated his phone and later arrested him," his lawyer Peter Martin said. The NIA team did not have an arrest warrant with them, Martin further added.
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.
Anticipating this move, Swamy had recorded a video two days back where he had denied all the allegations related to the Bhima Koregaon case. "The nature of the present NIA investigation has nothing to do with the Bhima Koregaon case for which I have been booked as a suspected accused, and consequently raided twice in the last two years, But it is being done to somehow establish that me and Bagaicha are personally linked to the extremist leftist forces."
"Now they want me to go to Mumbai, which I have said that I won't go," he said, citing the pandemic.
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.
Father Stan Swamy, originally from Kerala, is a veteran tribal rights activist, who has spent close to five decades working for the forest rights of the state's tribal community. He has been quite vocal against police atrocities on tribal communities and the government's failure to implement the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution in the state.
He along with 19 others was also accused of inciting tension on the 'Pathalgadi' issue on Facebook and was booked for sedition. The case was withdrawn by the Hemant Soren government after it came to power in December last year.
Tracing the link of the Koregaon violence to Jharkhand, the Maharashtra cops have raided Swami's Ranchi residence twice and interrogated him for over 15 hours in the last two years.
(With ENS and PTI Inputs)