Skip to main content

Arrests in Kerala under terror law UAPA just for distributing pamphlets, pasting posters?

Counterview Desk

A letter written from the prison at a time when the media predicted imminent arrest of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechuri, which was later denied by the Delhi Police, has caused considerable consternation -- as it accuses the Kerala government under the Left-democratic dispensation of being as vindictive towards activists as the BJP rulers at the Centre.
Also written amidst many other activists, including former student leader Umar Khalid, being arrested and detained by the Delhi police, foisting on them charges under the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the letter, by the prisoner, Roopesh, says not only he is being charged under UAPA but the the pandemic situation is being “used” by the Kerala administration against him.

Text: 

I am an under-trial prisoner, currently lodged at the Central Prison Viyyur, Thrissur, Kerala for alleged Maoist activity. I was arrested near Coimbatore,Tamil Nadu, along with my wife and 3 others by Andhra Pradesh Special Intelligence Bureau (APSIB) on May 4, 2015.
Subsequently remanded to judicial custody, I have been undergoing detention under judicial custody for more than 5 years. I have been implicated in 26 UAPA cases by Kerala police. In the meantime, I was legally classified as a political prisoner by a Sessions Court after recognising that the nature of the offences charged against me are completely political.
The purpose of writing this letter from a caged prison cell (this is the high security anda cells in Kerala prisons) is to render my heartful salute for conducting an all India campaign against the draconian UAPA and for the release of political prisoners who languish in various Indian prisons, particularly after the outbreak of a Covid-19 pandemic.
Being a political prisoner and having been incarcerated for the past 5 years without trial, this campaign certainly instils immense confidence to traverse this most difficult period in my life.
It is an undisputed fact among the democratic forces that UAPA is one of the most draconian laws in Indian criminal jurisprudence. Historically UAPA is the extension of Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes act (popularly known as Rowlatt Act). It was camouflaged during the post 1947 period under various names such as UAPA 1964, TADA, POTA etc.
The intention of the colonialists was to criminalise the idea of patriotism and repress any kind of dissent against colonial exploitation and oppression. That the people of India had come out and fought back against the draconian oppressive criminal laws is history. The epic Jallianwalla Bagh and its aftermath were historic instances of fierce resistance by the Indian masses against the notorious Rowlatt Act.
Again the democratic forces of India fought against TADA and POTA, which forced the ruling classes to repeal these oppressive acts, though the large number of previous cases were left untouched.
The purpose of the most draconian UAPA, after the amendments in 2004, 2008 and 2019, is the same: Criminalize oppositional ideas and get licence for unleashing state terror against any kind of dissent. The word 'disaffection' (against India) is often being used to brand any legitimate protest to be an 'unlawful activity' or 'terrorist act' under UAPA.
Indeed it has resulted in incarceration of large number of adivasis, peasants, communists, students, minorities, nationalists and now eminent human right activists in various prisons in India. The recent 2019 amendment in UAPA, further axed the fundamental rights envisaged in the constitution of India. It gives power to police for classifying an individual as a terrorist even without the necessity of a court to find it so!
In such a dismal situation the CPM Central Committee’s campaign against UAPA and for release of political prisoners is commendable. Certainly it gives enormous amount of confidence, and of course gives optimism, to the political prisoners who are languishing in various prisons. Once again a big salute for such timely political intervention in the defence of the existing constitutional rights.
Forgive me for chronicling here the rampant use of the UAPA in Kerala, the only state ruled by a Left government and where CPM's PB member Pinarayi Vijayan heads both the chief minister’s post and the home portfolio. I am narrating my own experience.
As I mentioned earlier I have been implicated in 26 UAPA cases by the erstwhile UDF government. Initially, I was implicated under relatively less punishable UAPA offences such section 10 and 13. But after LDF came to power, all these UAPA sections were altered and modified into most punishable Sections 20, 38 and 39 of UAPA.
Being an erstwhile parliamentarian and a relentless campaigner against UAPA, you clearly know that Section 45 of UAPA, incorporated through the 2008 amendment when you were a member of Rajya Sabha, warrants a valid sanction from a statutory authority for check and balance of unbridled power of the police and for avoiding frivolous and vexatious prosecutions against political activists.
It is meant to ensure procedural safeguard against arbitrariness of the police. It enforces strict compliance of procedures stipulated in Section 45 of UA(P)A on the investigating agency. It is a fact that any attempt to weaken Section 45 of the UAPA will make that act more ruthless and ferocious. And that would be against the letter and spirit of the parliamentary debate during the introduction of Section 45 in UAPA, in which you too participated actively.
Main fear of police is, that if Kerala High Court ruling stands, UAPA detenues like me and others will get relief from draconian acts
I was discharged from three cases by the Kerala High Court vide a common order. It reiterated that though the demand is there to repeal UAPA completely for ensuring constitutional rights, compliance of procedural safe guards, as given in Section 45, are mandatory in draconian acts like UAPA since that will at least provide some protection to political prisoners implicated under it.
Unfortunately the state police, under Pinarayi Vijayan, rather than grasping the available opportunity to strengthen checks and balances within UAPA, has decided to prefer an appeal against the discharge orders before the Supreme Court.
Alas, the age old question, "On which side are you?" is still relevant today. The main fear of the police is that if the Kerala High Court ruling stands, UAPA detenues like me and others will get relief from such draconian acts. The intention of police is clear. It is not only keen to strengthen the ruthless, draconian UAPA but also wants to avoid any procedural hindrance in the name of Section 45 of UAPA.
Interestingly, Kerala police filed this appeal before the Supreme Court during the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, regular functioning of Supreme Court is badly affected. It is hearing only important cases. Evidently, the natural course would be to wait till normalisation of the Supreme Court.
But the police didn't have the patience to wait. It forced Kerala's Advocate General (vide letter No T3 197780/2017, PHO, dated 13/8/2020) to prefer an interim stay before the Supreme Court.
The Advocate General, who is under Law Ministry (again under the leadership of another CPM Central Committee member A.K. Balan) after receiving communication from the state police chief (who is also a CPM follower) took up the matter with the standing counsel, a costly private lawyer of Supreme Court and gave instructions to file an interlocutory application immediately (vide letter No SC 2 Crl RP 732/19, dt 19/8/2020) that too during the surge of Covid-19, when Kerala is facing it's most difficult period and the Government is forced to mobilise all possible funds even from daily wagers and beggars for covering the shortage of funds.
Let alone the police chief, who was the then deputy chief of the NIA and admittedly not a communist, what about these three senior communists? Are they really a part of the campaign against UAPA? Or is the Kerala state exempted from the campaign?
Interestingly, I recently noticed a front page news item on August 6, 2020 in New Indian Express daily, "MCOCA-like law to be enacted in state to deal with crime syndicates". It was reported that senior Home Department officials said, Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has “given his approval for framing a new law to deal with the organised crime syndicates... A committee of officials that including the top brass police and intelligence has convinced the chief minister about the need to have a stringent law to deal with the organised crimes".
So what does this mean? I know that CPM was, in principle at least, against MCOCA in Maharashtra, Public Safety Act in Kashmir and A.P. and KCOCA in Karnataka. Then why this dichotomy? So, what is the difference between the Modi-Shah administration and the administration of Pinarayi Vijayan? Both are always concerned about boosting of the morale of police/ defence forces and rely mainly on draconian criminal laws.
I have seen several prisoners arrested and implicated under UAPA by police under Pinarayi Vijayan just for distributing some pamphlets and for pasting posters. Allan and Thwaha, two students who were arrested by the Pinarayi regime for mere alleged possession of some pamphlets are released now, on bail, as the Court found the evidences are insufficient to book them.
The question is: how can a wrong policy made under BJP or Congress governments become right under the CPM-led Government in Kerala? Let the seven martyrs who were gunned down by the police under Pinarayi Vijayan over the past 4 years forgive me for having hope in your all India campaign against UAPA.
No doubt it is a relevant campaign at this juncture, though your party has time and again proved its double standards in the States where it came into power. Once again I salute your noble intention behind the campaign against UAPA and to release the political prisoners.

Comments

TRENDING

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".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

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.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Haven't done a good deed, inner soul is cursing me as sinner: Aurangzeb's last 'will'

Counterview Desk The Tomb of Aurangzeb, the last of the strong Mughal emperors, located in Khuldabad, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, has this epitaph inscribed on it: "Az tila o nuqreh gar saazand gumbad aghniyaa! Bar mazaar e maa ghareebaan gumbad e gardun bas ast" (the rich may well construct domes of gold and silver on their graves. For the poor folks like me, the sky is enough to shelter my grave).