A rally was taken out in the downtown Park Street area of Kolkata on Saturday as part of the nationwide protests by rights groups and minority organisations against the arrest of elderly tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy by the NIA. Around 100 people took part in the rally, organised by the Mother Teresa International Award Committee, demanding the immediate release of the 82-year-old Jesuit priest, who was arrested from his Ranchi residence and taken to Mumbai by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case.
The rally was the first public protest in West Bengal against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy. It started from Bishop’s House on Park Street and culminated at St Teresa’s statue at the Archbishop’s House, a little more than a km away.
The participants, including students and rights activists, carried placards denouncing the “undemocratic arrest of the elderly man in the most inhuman manner". The vice-chancellor of St Xavier’s University, Father J Felix Raj, addressing the rally, said, “From here, we again make our demand to the Government of India that Father Swamy be released forthwith by the NIA." Swamy, he said, has been working for the uplift of the poor tribals in Jharkhand for decades. “He should be released immediately due to his advanced age. In a country like India, which has the tradition of showing respect to the elderly, the treatment to Father Swamy is very unfortunate," he said.
“In a secular country like India, the arrest of such a personality is a blot on our democratic tradition," Father Raj said. Protests against the arrest will continue, he added.
Father Stan Swamy was arrested by the central agency from his Ranchi home for his alleged involvement in inciting a mob to violence at Bhima-Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. He has been sent to judicial custody till October 23.