Stand with Stan: Catholics in Nagaland protest arrest of rights activist
Kohima, Nov. 20 (EMN): Joining the countrywide protest, the Catholic community in Nagaland held a silent protest on the theme, ‘Stand with Stan’, in Kohima on Tuesday to show their displeasure over the arrest of 83-year-old Fr. Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and social activist from Jharkhand, last month in connection with the alleged Bhima Koregaon case.
During the 45-minute rally held near Head Post Office in the state capital, Fr. Victor D’ Mello SJ, the principal of Loyola Higher Secondary School, Jakhama, said that Swamy has been working in Jharkhand for the tribal people in relation to “their rights and unjust arrests” for over 40 years.
Mello maintained that Swamy, who is from Tamil Nadu, has been falsely framed in an incident that took place in Maharashtra called the Bhima Koregaon case.
Also speaking on the occasion, Johnny Ruangmei, the president of Catholic Association of Nagaland (CAN), expressed solidarity with Fr. Swamy ‘who has been serving in accordance to the call of his vocation as a priest’.
He appealed to the law abiding citizens of the country — the largest democratic nation in the world — to demand justice for the activist who has been the ‘voice for the voiceless’.
In compliance with the ‘Catholic social teaching of the church’, the president reaffirmed that CAN stands in solidarity with Fr. Swamy and strongly condemn his ‘wrongful detention’ while demanding his early release.
Lhousarovi Paul Rino, the president of Angami Catholic Union (ACU), said that the contributions made by the Christians for the socio-economic progress of the nation has been ‘much greater’ despite their population ratio being small in relation to the total population of India.
He shared how early Christian missionaries took proactive role and fought against the evil practice of sati, killing of labourers, sacrifice of children, exploitation of the poor and the tribals in India.
However, the arrest of a Christian leader in the form of Swamy, a Catholic priest who has been fighting for the rights of the tribal people of Jharkhand without religious boundaries for years and labelling him as a Maoist by the people in power, according to him, was shocking.
Asserting that the rejection of interim bail on medical ground of the 83-year-old priest, who has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other ailments, was ‘most unacceptable,’ he requested the government of Nagaland, being one of the few Christian states in the country, to make an appeal to the government of India for Swamy’s immediate release from detention.
According to Keneingu Albert Rutsa, the president of Catholic Union, Christ King Parish, Kohima village, ‘implicating and illegally arresting the innocent rights activist and meting out atrocities to him’ only indicate that people in power are trying to suppress the voice of the minority and show their ‘lack of human dignity’.
“How much they want to suppress us, with Almighty God’s guidance, we will not remain silent,” he said.
Stating that the Catholics never support any sort of violence or go against the ‘peaceful atmosphere of life on earth,’ Rutsa said it was beyond their imagination that a priest like Swamy has been ‘falsely imprisoned’.
While demanding unconditional release of the priest, he asked the gathering to pray for his safety and also for those who are against him ‘as Christ prayed for His enemies’.
Following necessary Covid-19 protocols, the protesters numbering around 150, which included priests, nuns and students, held placards and banners that read, ‘#FreeStan: join hands for justice,’ ‘Condemn the NIA arrest of rights activist Stan Swamy,’ ‘Stop harassing and incarcerating human rights activists for championing the cause of the poor and the exploited’ etc., during the peaceful rally.