Jharkhand: Activist Stan Swamy’s properties attached, NCHRO Condemn Targeting Human Rights Defenders.
NCHRO deeply concerned, attachment of the belongings of 83-year-old Stan Swamy, from his residence at the Bagaicha campus in Jharkhand. We also condemn the continuous practice of political persecutions of independent activists.
For the past several decades, Stan has been working for the rights of the Adivasis and other marginalized groups in Jharkhand. Among other issues, he works on displacement caused due to forced acquisition of land, the condition of undertrials and implementation of PESA.
The attachment was in connection with a sedition case filed against Stan Swamy and 19 other activists of Jharkhand in July 2018, over their Facebook posts in which they questioned state excesses in villages. Among other sections, they have been booked under 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000, which was repealed by the Supreme Court in 2015.
The irony of police declaring Stan an absconder, even though he fully cooperated with the Maharashtra police in their investigations (and was available at his residence) in the same period was raised by his lawyer in the High Court. The government lawyer asked for additional time when he was asked by the court to explain this paradox.
The attachment of Swamy’s belongings two days before the next hearing indicates the false motive. Such a warrant can only be issued if it is proven that the accused is hiding or trying to evade arrest. Before the warrant was issued, neither did the police visit the residences of Stan and others nor send them any notice.
Police had to contend with a table, a steel almirah, three chairs and a bed.
Such actions by Jharkhand police are a form of intimidation and threat against human rights defenders. This raid is part of a context of growing threats and attacks on civil society activists. All individuals have the right to be free from arbitrary interference in their homes and offices and to freely exercise their right to expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Civil society organizations shouldn’t suffer interferences in their legal and legitimate activities. It is particularly important that human rights organizations enjoy such rights so that they can protect the rights of others. We demand the dropping of all frivolous charges against Stan Swamy and other activists and public intellectuals.
NCHRO calls on the authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against peaceful civil society activists and human rights defenders, including by releasing those who have been imprisoned. Activists have targets on their backs simply for helping survivors of abuse or for supporting basic rights.