Jharkhand capital Ranchi is witnessing large-scale unrest in response to the wrongful arrest of 83 year old Father Stan Swamy- a prominent Human Rights Activist engaged in the Bhima Koregaon case- from “Bagaicha” in Jharkhand on 8th October by the Mumbai NIA.
Since his arrest, people have been voicing their dissent online and taking it to the streets on a daily basis all over the country. And today, thousands of people from various political parties and social organisations will take out a justice march from Ranchi’s district school to Raj Bhavan under the banner of “Stand with Stan Swami”.
Who is Father Stan Swamy?
Stan Swamy was born in 1937 in Trichy, Tamil Nadu. He became a Jesuit at a young age and in 1957 decided to devote his life to the underprivileged and marginalised. He spent his life working on the rights of Adivasis and Dalit-Bahujans.
In 1965, he visited Chaibasa in Jharkhand, and since considered the state his home. A few years later, he received his master’s in sociology from Manila in the Philippines. After this, he stayed in a village with the ‘Ho’ tribals of Kolhan, where he came to know about their life and issues that adivasis face.
He went to Belgium to study and understand social systems in 1974, returning to India after receiving his PhD. For the next 15 years, he worked at the Bangalore-based research institute Indian Social Institute (ISI). There, he trained hundreds of youth to scientifically assess social problems and encouraged his students to work in grassroots movements.
In 1991, he went back to Jharkhand for worked. He worked on adivasi rights in Chaibasa for almost a decade and played a key role in establishing ‘Bagaicha’ in Ranchi. Bagaicha is a Jesuit social institution and training centre near Ranchi working in collaboration with people’s movements that are working against “unjust displacement, human rights violations, illegal land acquisitions, and policies that were designed or amended to acquire more land, making the indigenous people landless“.
Stan Swamy has been working for the constitutional rights of adivasis over water, forest and land for the last three decades. He has done incredible research work on displacement, looting of natural resources by corporates and the condition of prisoners under consideration. He has been vigorously raising his voice against anti-people amendments made in 2016 by the BJP government of Jharkhand in the CNT-SPT Act and the Land Acquisition Act. He also strongly opposed the BJP’s Raghubar Das government’s policy of handing over the land in the land bank to the corporate. He has been pushing for the implementation of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution and the PESA Act.
He has also raised his voice against issues like hunger deaths, problems with the Aadhar card and communal violence. He was among the founding members of the ‘Anti-Displacement Mass Development Movement’. They have been working for the release of adivasis who have been jailed, and extending solidarity and bringing attention to adivasi movements that have been made illegitimate through the label “maoist”.
Though he states he has never been to Bhima Koregaon, Stan Swamy was arrested from his home in Ranchi on Thursday evening, 8th October and taken to Mumbai where he was produced before a court on Friday. He is remanded to judicial custody till October 23rd.
Protests in Jharkhand and across India
On 9th October, hundreds of people formed a human chain at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi demanding the release of all political prisoners, the repeal of the draconian UAPA law, and for the arrest of the Hindutva leader, Milind Ekbote, who instigated violence at the annual Bhima Koregaon event as well as of Sambhaji Bhide. Since then, protests have also been held in several cities of the country (Patna, Kochi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, etc.), by mass organisations and catholic churches.
On October 12, many socio-political activists held a day-long fast and staged a sit-in from 2 to 5 pm the next day at the Amar Shaheed Birsa Munda Samadhi site in Koker. On 13th October, the ‘Christian Youth Association’ burnt an effigy of the central government against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi.
On October 14, several organisations including All India People’s Forum, Jharkhand Muslim Central Committee, Jharkhand Youth Federation and Association for Protection of Civil Rights protested against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy and Umar Khalid at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi. On October 15, the staged a statewide protest against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy.
On the appeal of the Ranchi Catholic Church, silent protests were also held, along with prayers and human chains in Albert Ekka Chowk, Sarajna Chowk, Dr. Kamil Bulke Path, Dangra Toli Chowk, Kanta Toli Chowk.
Several ruling legislators, including Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Jharkhand Congress state president Dr. Rameshwar Oraon, also made statements opposing the arrest. They termed the move of the central fascist Modi government as wrong and unjust.