Williamnagar, Oct 15: The arrest of a renowned social worker and catholic priest by a central government investigation agency last week on unverified charges of terrorism has sparked a protest in many parts of the country and is now resonating even in the northeast- a tribal majority region.
Teams from a central agency called the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on October 8th picked up Fr. Stan Swamy- an 83 year old ailing Jesuit priest from his place of stay in Ranchi- capital of Jharkhand and whisked him away. Despite his advanced age and health complications he has been arrested on terrorism charges and remanded to judicial custody in prison.
The detention of Fr Stan Swamy has shocked many of the citizens from this region and the blame has been laid before the BJP government at the centre under whose jurisdiction the NIA operates.
It has also hit alarm bells about the continuing crackdown on dissent which is seen by many as the highest under the present Modi government.
Shaken by the treatment meted out to an aged priest and social worker, citizens of Williamnagar town in East Garo Hills joined hands with the Loyola college congregation to express solidarity with Fr Stan Swamy.
Lighting candles and offering prayers, they made their voice felt in support of Fr Swamy and called for his immediate and unconditional release from prison.
Those who attended the solidarity event included advocates, church leaders, members of civil society organizations and a large youth force.
Fr Stan has been working for the marginalised, downtrodden and other vulnerable indigenous tribals of Jharkhand for over three decades.
He came to the Jharkhand region in 1991 and has helped create awareness about their land rights and fight against oppression. He fought a legal battle with the state when he moved the high court of Jharkhand seeking the release of 3000 tribal men and women who were branded Maoists terrorists and dumped in prison.
One of his crucial work as a social activist was spreading awareness about the seizure of vast tracts of tribal land by big companies and state players for building dams and townships and extraction of mineral without their consent.
Depriving a tribal of his land and lack of compensation became a major issue in Jharkhand- something the state did not find palatable in an era of industrialization.
With the central government silent on Fr Stan Swamy’s release, momentum appears to be building up here in the region for more solidarity protests in support of the Jesuit priest. Similar events are being chalked out in the coming days across different parts of the region, including Tura- headquarters of Garo Hills