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Signatories of the statement, which was issued on October 22 but claimed to have been "withdrawn" from Facebook, include Rajiv Dimri (General Secretary, All India Central Council of Trade Unions ), Amarjeet Kaur (General Secretary, All-India Trade Union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

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.