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Signatories of the statement, which was issued on October 22 but claimed to have been "withdrawn" from Facebook, include Rajiv Dimri (General Secretary, All India Central Council of Trade Unions ), Amarjeet Kaur (General Secretary, All-India Trade Union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

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

PepsiCo warned: Withdraw cases against Gujarat farmers or face dire consequences

By Our Representative
About 200 farmers’ leaders and activists, in a letter to Dr KV Prabhu, chairperson, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA), and Dr R C Agrawal, registrar general, PPVFRA, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, have demanded that PepsiCo immediately withdraw all the legal suits it has slapped on many potato farmers in different districts of Gujarat.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

During Emergency, the ruler was extolled but Opposition wasn't punched around: Scribe

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released book, “India: The Wrong Transition”, by a top Delhi-based scribe Anand K Sahay, has quoted “journalistic circles” to say that the Indian mainstream media – with certain “honourable exceptions” – has virtually abandoned the “practice of journalism”, and  this happened following a “sting operation” that showed that “the crème de la crème of Indian journalism were only too willing, for a suitable price, to let poisonous Hindutva propaganda prevail in their news columns.”

Ex-IAS, IPS, IFS officers tell Modi: Pragya Thakur doesn't represent India's rich heritage

Counterview Desk
In an open statement, a group of former civil servants have said that normally they would have dismissed the candidature of Pragya Thakur, who is BJP’s choice for the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, as an act of political expediency. However, they were forced to react to her candidature after none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed has as a “symbol of our civilisational heritage.”

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".