|Father Stanislaus Lourdusamy
Indian Jesuit Father Stanislaus Lourdusamy says a treason charge linking him with militant Maoists is a fabrication being used to discredit his work for prisoners and tribal people.
The 82-year-old Jesuit, popularly known as Stan Swamy, was charged along with eight other rights activists on Aug. 28 for alleged links to a banned Maoist group in the western state of Maharashtra.
Police have also linked the activists with violence between Dalit and upper-caste Maratha people in the state earlier this year.
"It is nothing but a complete concoction and absolute falsehood that is being propagated by Maharashtra police," Father Swamy said in a Sept. 3 statement.
Father Swamy said he has been convener of an organization called Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) which assists under-trial prisoners.
He has also created awareness among tribal and Dalit people about their rights including helping tribal people become aware of a Supreme Court judgment that "the owner of the land is also the owner of the subsoil minerals."
Jharkhand state witnessed massive rallies and protests last year from tribal people that forced the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government to retreat from efforts to amend laws. Tribal leaders accused the government of trying to take tribal lands for miners and corporate firms.
"I fear that these activities of mine have angered the powerful interests within the government that they not only have foisted a case of sedition against me but now have included me in a false case that links me with banned organizations at national level," said Father Swamy, who is based in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state.
The false charges aim to discredit intellectuals, legal professionals and social activists who raise their voices "for the rights of poorest of poor people," he said.
The priest's statement came after police officials held a media conference Aug. 31 where they said they possessed a letter by Sudha Bharadwaj, one of the five activists arrested. Police allege that in the letter Bharadwa asked Father Swamy to provide funds for the activities of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which has been banned since 2009.
Police said Father Swamy made no definite commitment to funding.
Bharadwaj has said the letter is a fabrication and Father Swamy said Bharadwaj never asked him for any funds.