An NIA special court in Mumbai has sent Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old tribal rights activist arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, to judicial custody till October 23.
He will be sent to the jail in Taloja in Navi Mumbai where the others arrested in the case are lodged. The NIA had arrested Father Swamy, a jesuit priest, from his residence in Ranchi, Jharkhand, on Thursday (October 8).
The case relates to the violence witnessed during celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, which holds great significance for Dalitts as the British army that won the battle consisted of a large number of members from the community.
The arrested people are accused of having incited violence through their speeches during the celebrations.
Father Swamy has been working for the rights of tribals in Jharkhand for three decades. According to the NIA, he was closely associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), an entity banned in India, and “actively involved in its activities”. It said he had helped the organisation with fund-raising activities and that literature supporting CPI(Maoist) was found in his home.
The NIA said he was also in touch with those already arrested in the case.
Before his arrest, Father Swamy released a video in which he said he was facing pressure from the NIA. The agency had interrogated him for 15 hours, he said. It had asked him to come to Mumbai for further questioning. He, however, expressed his inability to travel due to his age and related health issues.
“The NIA is after me. I’m being pressurised to go to Bombay… I’m being called to the Mumbai office of the NIA. I refuse to go there. I am 83 and have health issues. I don’t want to expose myself to the coronavirus. I have never been to Bhima Koregaon,” Stan Swamy said in the video released on Tuesday.
Father Swamy was questioned by NIA first in July and then again in August.
Many activists and lawyers have been jailed for their alleged involvement in the case, resulting in a huge outcry from human rights activists.