Christians in India Call on Government to Release 83-Year-Old Priest

Pastor Stan Swamy

Church groups and civil society leaders in India are protesting against the arrest of an 83-year-old Jesuit priest by the country’s federal counter-terrorism task force on charges of being a Maoist, or extreme Marxist. The Catholic Church in India says he is being punished for protecting the rights of aboriginal people.

The National Investigation Agency arrested Swamy last Thursday from his home in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

Two days before the arrest, Swamy said in a video message posted on YouTube that he feared he would be arrested because he fought against the government’s indiscriminate arrest of thousands of young aboriginal people and local settlers who question big business projects that take away their land.

The government falsely claims that all such protesters are part of an outlawed “Maoist” group, said Swamy, who documents the displacement of tribal, or aboriginal, people as a result of commercial projects like mining, setting up industrial units and the construction of dams on their resource-rich ancestral land.

Several states in India, including Jharkhand, are affected by a Maoist-led insurgency.

“During the past three decades I have tried to identify myself with the Adivasi (aboriginal) people and their struggle for a life of dignity and self-respect,” Swamy said. “As a writer, I have tried to analyze the different issues they are faced with. In this process, I have clearly expressed dissent with several policies, laws enacted by the government in light of the Constitution.”

Swamy was transported to Mumbai city by plane at about 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 9, where he was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the Sessions Court, according to the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which further reported that he has been sent to Taloja Jail near Mumbai until Oct. 23.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar