A Christian activist, who spent more than four years in jail as a suspected Maoist, says he was persecuted for standing up for the poor and the voiceless.
“I am innocent. The police charges were fabricated to stop me working for the poor and the suffering,” Arun Thomas Ferreira said in Mumbai Wednesday.
Police arrested Ferreira in 2007 and charged him on nine counts under India’s Unlawful Activities Act of having links with Maoists.
He was released last September, but was rearrested at the gates of a federal prison in Nagpur, in central India, which caused an outcry and condemned by the Church. He was finally released on bail on January 4.
Ferreira, 38, said a criminal court has so far acquitted him of eight charges and the ninth one is scheduled for a hearing on January 20.
He also accused the police of having tortured him and criticized prison doctors for not reporting it.
Ferreira worked for Navjawan Bharat Sabha (council of young Indians), a Mumbai-based NGO that fought for the rights of mill workers. He also worked among tribal people in Maharashtra state’s Gadchiroli district.
Ferreira said he supports the struggles of the poor, the marginalized and voiceless people for justice. “I will not be silenced. The poor will continue to inspire me,” he asserted.
The Catholic activist alleged that police brand as Maoists anyone who becomes a thorn in the side of the authorities.
The state does not oppose those who limited their activities to distribution of food and medicine to the poor. “But when you join their movement or organize them or support their struggle, the state will target you,” he added.