As many Marcellus clients might know, the last three years have seen the National Investigation Agency (NIA) make a series of arrests in different parts of India of people with alleged links to Maoists. These people are, it is alleged, fronts for organisations (NGOs, not-for-profits) which are channelling funds to Communist and Maoist organisations in various parts of India.
Following these arrests we have – as expected – seen opinion polarise on this subject. Some high profile personalities have supported these arrests and created the moniker “urban Naxals” for the people who have been put behind bars. Others have claimed that this is a miscarriage of justice. We at Marcellus have too little knowledge to take a stance one way or the other. However, it does strike us as being interesting that almost all of those being arrested are either academics and/or activists i.e. people working/influencing ground level opinion in the fields and factories of India. In this context, we found this piece in The Telegraph – a newspaper published from Kolkata – interesting.
This piece highlights a letter from 83-yeard old Stan Swamy (full name Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy) who is currently an inmate of Navi Mumbai’s Taloja prison after “NIA has chargesheeted Swamy for allegedly channelling funds to Maoists through the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee.”
He was arrested on 9th
October 2020. This is how the Times of India reported his arrest: “NIA on Friday said it has arrested Jharkhand-based activist Stan Swamy as he is a member of banned outfit CPI(Maoist) and had received funds through as associate for the furtherance of the outfit’s activities. NIA has detained and questioned the activist in Ranchi in connection with the Elgar-Parishad case on Thursday. He was subsequently arrested and is being taken to Mumbai, an NIA officer told TOI. According to sources in the Central investigative agency, Stan Swamy is a member of CPI(Maoist) and actively involved in its activities.”
The piece in The Telegraph highlights a letter “…written from Navi Mumbai’s Taloja Central Prison, was received by a fellow priest on November 4”
. The Telegraph goes to reprint text from this letter: ““Dear friends:…I am in a cell approximately 13 feet x 8 feet, along with two more inmates. It has a small bathroom and a toilet with Indian commode. Fortunately, I am given a western commode chair.
“Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira are in another cell. During the day, when cells and barracks are opened, we meet with each other. From 5.30pm to 06.00am and 12 noon to 03.00pm, I am locked up in my cell, with two inmates.
“Arun assists me to have my breakfast and lunch. Vernon helps me with bath. My two inmates help out during supper, in washing my clothes and give massage to my knee joints. They are from very poor families.
“Please remember my inmates and my colleagues in your prayers. Despite all odds, humanity is bubbling in Taloja prison.””
By way of background The Telegraph adds, “Rao is an 80-year-old Telugu litterateur, Gonsalves a 63-year-old former Mumbai University professor, and Ferreira a cartoonist and lawyer in his late 40s.
They and Father Swamy are among 16 authors, academics, lawyers and rights activists arrested for alleged links with the banned CPI Maoist and their purported role in the Elgar Parishad Ambedkarite event in Pune on December 31, 2017, that was followed by caste violence.”
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