Saturday, August 20, 2016

No difference between BJP, Congress, Trinamool or AIADMK in imposing "anti-democratic" sedition law: PUCL

By Our Representative
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India's premier human rights organization, has said that there is little difference between political party in power in Indian states seeking to impose “coercive, anti-democratic, sedition provision of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to silence dissent and crush criticism.”
In a statement, issued against the backdrop of sedition being applied on Amnesty International India, which organized a programme on Kashmiri families in Banguluru, PUCL has said, whether it is BJP government invoking sedition provisions against Dr Binayak Sen in Chhattisgarh or the AIADMK government invoking sedition laws against peaceful, anti-nuclear protestors in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu, the trend is not very different.
Among those who suffered because of the archaic sedition law, says PUCL, include cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, arrested in Maharashtra, or the case launched by the Trinamool government in West Bengal against academics.
In the last one year, the PUCL says, sedition was imposed on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar in Delhi, Tamil folk singer Kovan in Tamil Nadu for criticising the government’s liquor policy, and against Hardik Patel for rallying the pro-quota struggle involving Patels or Patidars in Gujarat.
Underling that the latest to join this long list of “infamous” sedition cases is the one against Amnesty International India, launched by the Congress government in Karnataka. It adds, “In all these cases, what weighed were political considerations of the ruling parties and governments dealing a death blow to the rule of law and functioning of the criminal justice system.”
Condemning the actions of the Bengaluru police in foisting the sedition case against Amnesty and unnamed staff for holding a meeting on August 13 on “human rights abuses in Kashmir in which families of victims”, PUCL regrets, “That the Karnataka police chose to register a FIR highlights the dangers of arming the state with such draconian laws like the sedition law.”
The August 13 event was held against the backdrop of the Amnesty report “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”. Says the report, “The report focused on the travails of families of persons who lost their loved ones due to excesses by security forces. The report is in the public domain.”
“Families of victims of State violence were present to narrate in first person, the situation in Kashmir and the difficulties in claiming justice and accountability in cases where innocent people are killed in encounters or enforced disappearances”, PUCL says.
Pointing out that video films of testimonies of other victim families were shown, apart from a panel discussion, a musical performance and a skit, PUCL says, the FIR for sedition against Amnesty is part of the witch hunt into the finances /funding of the organisation, carried out by right wing, majoritarian groups to “stifle dissent, prevent discussion and control debate.”
Saying that there is a “visible pattern across the country, from the incidents in JNU, Hyderabad Central University, Allahabad University, or the witch hunt against Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, Indira Jaisingh and Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective, Greenpeace and now Amnesty”, PUCL notes, in each of these cases efforts are made to disrupt meetings and thereafter to harass the organisers by slamming cases against them.
Insisting that “seldom is any action initiated against the individuals who disrupt meetings”, PUCL says, in the latest incidence involving Amnesty, the police as “informed and were present at the meeting”, yet the disruptors were “not removed by the police present in the venue.”

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