Skip to main content

There is robust evidence: BJP govt is using UAPA to silence India's dissent

Counterview Desk
Several Central trade union organisations have come together to insist on the need to repeal Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), because it is allegedly being used to silent dissent in India. Even as demanding the withdrawal of "fabricated charges" against those arrested under UAPA and National Security Act (NSA) and the release of activists arrested under them in the recent past, they said, "An overwhelming number of UAPA detenues are acquitted after years of incarceration. This is robust evidence that government merely uses UAPA as a means to victimise democratic dissenters."
Signatories of the statement, which was issued on October 22 but claimed to have been "withdrawn" from Facebook, include Rajiv Dimri (General Secretary, All India Central Council of Trade Unions ), Amarjeet Kaur (General Secretary, All-India Trade Union Congress), Aparna (President, Indian Federation of Trade Unions), and N Vasudevan (President, New Trade Union Initiative).

Text of the statement

A vengeful and duplicitous BJP Government in Maharashtra moved the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court quashed the remand order and therefore the arrest of Gautam Navalakha. At the same time, the champions of Hindutva, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, against whom demonstrable evidence exists for their role in inciting the attack against Dalits at Bhim-Koregaon, continue to roam free and the FIRs against them have been closed.
In the petition filed by Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and others before the Supreme Court, against the simultaneous arrest of 5 human rights defenders on 28 August in different parts of the country, the court granted relief by extending the house arrest while specific legal remedy maybe sought.
Insofar as the Supreme Court, in a 2-1 majority verdict, left the question of anecdotal and circumstantial evidence open, leaving both the union and state governments the right to use the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967 against those who disagree with it or oppose it, the robustly argued dissenting view of Justice DY Chandrachud is a reminder that the defence of democracy cannot be left to the courts alone and involves people’s struggle.
Following the victory of the Left Unity candidates in the just concluded JNU Students’ Union election, the Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman charged them with identifying themselves with those who are ‘waging a war against India’ making it very clear that the BJP-RSS and its multiple fronts alone represents ‘national’ interest.

UAPA-NSA being used to silence dissent:

  • June 2017: Chandrashekhar Ravan, Sonu and Shiv Kumar of the Bhim Army, were booked under the National Security Act (NSA), 1980 for their alleged role in the 5 May 2017 alleged caste clash in Saharanpur between Dalits and the Thakurs and have only been granted bail after 14 months of incarceration.
  • July 2017: P. Ramesh Chander, B. Durga Prasad, Dhansari Samiah and Badri, were arrested under UAPA in Telegana.
  • December 2017: Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti, a registered trade union in Jharkhand, was banned and its leaders arrested.
  • January 2018: Shankar Gunde, Ravi Marapalle, Saidulu Singaponga, Babu Shankar and Satyanarayan Karrela, all contract workers of Reliance Energy in Mumbai and members of the Mumbai Electricity Employees’ Union, were arrested under UAPA.
  • February 2018: Bandari Illiah was also arrested in Telengana under the UAPA.
  • June 2018: Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut were arrested for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence and later charged with ‘planning the murder of the Prime Minister’.
  • July 2018: Avnunoori Narayanswami was re-arrested in Telengana under the UAPA, after having arrested and released in 2017. In addition he was charged under the Preventive Detention Act 1950.
  • August 2018: Thirumurugan Gandhi, who has been campaigning against land acquisition for Chennai - Salem green corridor project and the police firing in Thoothukudi, was arrested under UAPA from Bengaluru airport.
  • September 2018: Ashiq, Ismail, Salavuddin, Jafar Sadiq Ali, and Shamsuddin were arrested in Coimbatore under the UAPA allegedly for their involvement in a conspiracy to kill some leaders of two right wing organisations Hindu Makkal Katchi and Hindu Munnani.
  • August 28, 2018: The Maharashtra government sought to arrest Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad, Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, Varavara Rao from Hyderabad, and Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves from Mumbai, who were all subsequently placed under house arrest by an order of the Supreme Court for their alleged links to the Bhima Koregaon violence and for seeking to ‘overthrow the government’.
Many of these activists have been arrested previously under the UAPA, have spent years in jail and have been acquitted. The National Crime Records Bureau data that has just become available shows that only a minute number of those arrested under these provisions are ever charged. An overwhelming number of UAPA detenues are acquitted after years of incarceration. This is robust evidence that government merely uses UAPA as a means to victimise democratic dissenters.
In the meantime BJP government is allowing BJP-RSS promoted vigilantes and others to roam free.
These are only some of the innumerable cases of arrest under the UAPA, the NSA, and other such draconian laws across the country. The arrested are those who resist and those who defend them. 
Defending the rights of workers, dalits, muslims is viewed by the BJP government, both at the centre and in the states, as a direct opposition to their policies of sectionalism, sectarianism and communalism and to protect the interest of capital. Anything that does not fit into the BJP-RSS scheme of things has become ‘anti-national’.

Acche Din for corporations and vigilantes

The BJP government has in the last four years systematically tried to dismantle the existing laws that protect the rights of working people, small and marginal farmers, of dalits and adivasis, of religious minorities and of women in order to take away even their legal right to defend themselves. The BJP government has failed to create jobs, has deepened the agrarian crisis and pushed the economy into an unsustainable situation.
As it has become clear that ‘Acche Din’ is as elusive as the ‘India Shining’ slogan of 2004 of the BJP, there is a growing people’s resistance. The BJP has no response to this resistance. Hence the BJP government is misusing its executive power to create false cases, based on fabricated evidence, against well recognised lawyers, trade unionists, writers, poets and journalists to distract us all from the failures of the government. To instil this fear in every citizen the government has unleashed the UAPA, the NSA wherever it sees any sign of dissent. The arrests under these draconian laws is not just to punish those arrested, it is as much an effort of the BJP government to create an atmosphere of fear.
Our constitution allows citizens the right to free speech and therefore the right to dissent. The right to dissent with government policy and actions has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Our country has adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and India has also ratified the International Covenant of Political Rights (ICPR). 
These together bind government to not just allowing the right to dissent but also bar it from using unlawful arrests to put down protests. The ICPR and, in the case of trade unions and trade unionists being falsely charged, along with the Conventions of the International Labour Organisations, the actions of the BJP government amount to a violation of Freedom of Association.
It is not a crime to defend the spirit of our own constitution. It is not a crime to resist exploitation of workers, of our natural resources, an attack on our civil and democratic rights. It is also not a crime to defend those who resist this exploitation and attack against our constitutional rights. 
Opposition of a government and its policies is not an ‘anti-national’ act – making policies that takes away the right of people to live a secure life with affordable food, healthcare, education and livelihood is ‘anti-national’. The BJP is preparing for the next general election. So must we. We must reclaim our rights, our democratic space and importantly our right to dissent and defend those unfairly charged.
  • Let us unite against this Attack on our Right to Dissent.
  • We demand the withdrawal of fabricated charges against those arrested under the UAPA and the NSA and the release of all those arrested under them.
  • We demand the repeal the UAPA, the NSA, and other draconian laws that are used to suppress democratic rights and criminalise democratic dissent.
  • We will join together to resist this attack on our democratic rights and our right to democratic dissent.

Comments

TRENDING

Impact of state repression? Kashmir's 65% people prefer independence: Cambridge study

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as the Government of India’s controversial move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories is not only refusing to down die but has acquired international dimensions, a recent study, published by the Cambridge University Press, has claimed “pro-independence attitudes” among that 65% of Kashmiris, warning, this sentiment worsens when the state machinery resorts “repressive violence”.

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.

Congress' anti-democratic laws led to Modi govt's 'Constitutional' changes: Scholars

Counterview Desk
A large number of academics* said to be belonging to several Indian and international institutions, even as taking strong exception to the Narendra Modi government's alleged move to amend the Constitution through "illegitimate" means, have taken strong exception to their colleagues in academia who we have become "all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities."

Kashmir normal? Schoolboys, teenagers being arbitrarily picked up, detained: Report

Counterview Desk
A four-person team, consisting of Jean Dr├Ęze, well-known development economist; Kavita Krishnan, who is with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist); Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), back from a five-day fact-finding mission (August 9-13) from Kashmir, has said that people they spoke to “expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India.”
In a report, “Kashmir Caged”, released along with a short eight-minute film, they said, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, dissolution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and bifurcating it into two Union Territories, is not being supported by anyone they met, except for BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, who claimed 46% vote share in J&K.
Excerpts from the report: When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passeng…

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

Skewed sex ratio 'behind' ban on rural Thakor girls' mobile use, inter-caste marriage

By Jharna Pathak*
On July 14, 2019, the Thakor community of 12 villages of Banaskantha district in Gujarat announced a ban on the use of mobile phones by unmarried women. Simultaneously, they imposed penalties on inter-caste marriages. The family of any girl of the community marrying without the consent of her parents would now be fined Rs 1.5 lakh while that of a boy marrying a girl from other community without his family’s consent would be penalised with a fine of Rs 2 lakh.

Kashmir kayoed, bhakts 'jubilant': Much like crowds when Hitler purged Jews, Catholics

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
August 12, 2019 was the great festival of Eid al-Adha (incidentally, for Jews, Christians and Muslims – the sacrifice of Abraham is a very significant one); for the people of Kashmir however, this year Eid was a sad day indeed, what with the lockdown and communications blockade!

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

J&K curbs 'violate' International Covenant on civil, political rights: Letter to Modi

Counterview Desk
The International Federation for Human Rights (IFDH), a Paris-based human rights NGO with global presence, has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the decision to “reconfigurate” Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), remove its special status and impose a “complete lock-down of the region” violates Kashmiris’ “fundamental right to self-determination and their right to participate in crucial decisions that affect their lives.”

Modi's Kashmir move meant to 'solidify' Hindu majoritarianism, 'demonize' Muslims

By Battini Rao*
The parliament of India on August 6 put its stamp of approval on bills abrogating article 370 and downgrading the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to two union territories. When the representatives of the people of India were deciding the fate of the state, the people of J&K were forced into collective house arrests.