An 81-year-old Jesuit priest who was raided by Pune police on Tuesday at his home in Ranchi, but not arrested, has said activists like him, including the five put under house arrest, only wish for true governance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and do not wish him any ill.
"I don't think any of us wish ill for the prime minister. If we wish anything from him at all, it is that he will keep well and do a satya sashan -- true governance -- for the people of India. That is our only wish for him," said Father Stan Swamy at his home-cum-office on Thursday, completely dismissing allegations of plot to assassinate the prime minister.
48 hours after Pune police came knocking on Tuesday at 6 am, Father Stan still doesn't know why the policemen came with a search warrant in Marathi and left after "ransacking" his room for three hours taking with them his phone, laptop, tablet, documents and audio cassettes of instrumental music that he would listen to in the mornings sometimes.
"Even now, I do not know what it was about except that apparently my name is there on an FIR in court in Pune," said the priest who has made Jharkhand his home to work for the tribals. "I don't know because a copy of the FIR has not been given to me till now. I asked for a Hindi translation of the FIR. The police said they would send me a Hindi copy but it has not yet arrived. This is not appreciable," he added.
Father Stan has at some time or the other met the five activists under house arrest. But Sudha Bharadwaj is a personal acquaintance. "We are colleagues in the same struggle.... We belong to an organization we have created called 'Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee' that fights to release tribals arrested in frivolous cases and kept in jail for years," he said.
The raid on Father Stan comes a month after the Jharkhand police slapped charges of sedition on him, along with 20 other activists, for writing provocative, anti-establishment material on social media.
Father Stan is working among the tribals to ensure their right to their land, minerals and forests.
"The government has made a mockery of the laws in this country to protect our tribals, our forests and minerals," he said.
So is he feeling like a sitting duck right now? Father Stan laughs out loud and says, "No, no. I don't feel like a sitting duck at all. The Supreme Court intervention has come as a big boost. Till yesterday evening, I had packed up a bag with a change of clothes. I expected the police to walk in and arrest me anytime. But after the top court judgment, I felt some relief. What will happen on September 6, I look forward to that, and hope truth and justice will prevail and all of us - the people of the whole country - will have their free democratic space for them to live and breath in.
Father Stan runs a training institute for tribals in Namkum, about a 30 minute drive from capital Ranchi. He trains tribal youth today to demand and argue for their rights from the government at the Centre and in the state.
Nine rights activists were searched and five of them were arrested on Tuesday over allegations of Maoist links after sweeping multi-city raids. The raids and arrests were by the Pune police, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Maratha. Those arrested include Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves. Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Kranti from Telangana were also raided.
The five activists have been put under house arrest after Supreme Court's order on Wednesday.