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Indian court refuses to quash sedition case against Jesuit

Authorities have sought to link Father Stanislaus Lourdusamy to January clashes between poor Dalits and upper-class Hindus

Indian court refuses to quash sedition case against Jesuit

Members of Indian tribal groups shout slogans during a protest in Mumbai in October over land title and other issues. (Photo by Punit Paranjpe/AFP)

The top court in India's Maharashtra state has refused to quash a case against an 82-year-old Jesuit rights' activist priest accused of aiding a banned Maoist movement.

The Bombay High Court rejected the application of Father Stanislaus Lourdusamy to quash the case, with the bid to have charges dropped based on a contention that he continues to be only a suspect until investigations are complete, church officials said quoting court documents they received Dec. 17. 

Charges against the priest, including sedition, were filed under stringent laws covering the prevention of so-called 'anti-national activities'.

In August this year, Maharashtra state police raided homes of nine human rights activists, including that of the priest, linking them with a January 2018 violent clash between socially poor Dalits formerly known as 'untouchables' and upper caste Hindus in the state's Bhima Koregaon village.

Police suspect the incident, which killed one person and injured at least 30 policemen, was aided by Maoists involved in subversive activities. 

Police also linked the nine rights workers with a public meeting, held in the state's Pune city Dec. 31, 2017, before violent clashes occurred.

Five of them were put under house arrest. The other four, including the priest, have not yet been arrested.

Police have said they are also investigating whether there was involvement by the rights workers in a plot to kill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Father Lourdusamy, popularly known as Stan Swamy, lives and works in Jharkhand state and has not visited Maharashtra state for years, said colleague and fellow Jesuit Father Davis Solomon.

"It is unfortunate that he is suspected in this case," Father Solomon told ucanews.com.

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A file image of Father Stanislaus Lourdusamy SJ. (Photo supplied)


Lawyer Mihir Desai, appearing for Father Lourdusamy, urged the court to quash the case against him considering his advanced age and that he was better described as a suspect than as an accused person, media reports said.

Government pleader Aruna Kamat Pai, appearing for the police, confirmed that the investigation had not yet been completed.

Father Lourdusamy has been convener of an organization called Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee and prisoners in Jharkhand include arrested Maoists.

In September, he described the case against him as "a complete concoction and absolute falsehood."

The priest has sought to create awareness among tribal and Dalit people on their rights over their land and underground minerals.

"I fear that these activities of mine have angered powerful interests within the government," he said.

The priest complained that as well as having a case of sedition foistered on him, authorities were were now trying to link him to banned organizations.

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