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Bihar's govt's legal armour for 'unbridled' powers to suppress dissent, rights activists

Counterview Desk 

India’s top civil society network, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM), has demanded the Bihar government should immediately withdraw the “undemocratic” Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, calling it a draconian law, insisting it was “passed in a draconian manner.” It adds, the bill, passed on March 23, on the anniversary of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, “effectively turns Bihar into a Police Raj.”
In a statement, tens of NAPM’s top leaders, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Prafulla Samantara and Sandeep Pandey, referring to what it called “brutal police violence within the State Assembly at the behest of the ruling party” in order to pass the bill, said, “The process through which the Bill was passed, after humiliating and assaulting elected representatives, goes against all parliamentary traditions and constitutional precedents.”

Text:

National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements strongly condemns the high-handed and undemocratic passing of the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 by the Bihar Assembly, and the violence meted out to the opposing voices by the police on March 23. The process through which the Bill was passed, after humiliating and assaulting elected representatives, goes against all parliamentary traditions and constitutional precedents, while its content effectively turns Bihar into a Police Raj. 
This happened, ironically, on a day that holds great significance for the people of India. It is on March 23 that freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were martyred. This is also the day famous socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia was born.
The Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 introduced by the Nitish Kumar government, is an anti-democratic, ruthless, and draconian law through which the Bihar Armed Police has been given unconstitutional and sweeping powers to:
  1. Arrest any person on mere suspicion.
  2. Arrest without a warrant, in the event of ‘threat of attack, use of force or any other intimidation’ against the establishment to which the Special Armed Police is attached.
  3. Conduct searches and arrests without warrant.
The Bill grants the ‘Special Armed Police’ impunity. No court shall take cognizance of offenses committed by a special armed police officer. That means that even if a special armed police officer commits multiple offenses, the public cannot approach the court for justice.
This Bill gravely undermines the constitutional and legal protection each citizen is granted, and provides legal armour and justification for unbridled state and central powers to suppress any dissent or opposition from human rights activists, intellectuals, students, writers, artists, and any independent voices who oppose or criticize the policies of the government. Undoubtedly, the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 is a harmful, dangerous, and unjust manifestation of authoritarianism and arbitrariness.
The incident exposes Nitish Kumar as ‘socialist’. After assault on democracy, he declared a cultural evening and feast
The Bill was met with strong opposition, both within and outside the House, where a rally was taken out. The participants in the rally were subjected to police violence at the behest of the ruling alliance, which includes the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United). Protesters within the Assembly faced similar violence as the police were called to remove them from the session.
Instead of addressing attacks on the Bihar Assembly, an important institution of democracy, the police targeted legislators, including women and older people. This incident is an insult to the votes of crores of people whose elected representative MLAs appear in recorded footage being kicked, dragged and beaten with shoes by the CM’s police. 
Following the incident, CM Nitish Kumar issued a statement ‘justifying’ the police action, clearly indicating that the Speaker allowed the police excesses, at the behest of the ruling party. All of this also proves that the state and Center are working together to advance draconian police action and legislation that enables police impunity in the state. The incident also exposes Nitish Kumar as a ‘socialist’ when, after such a shameful incident and assault on democracy, he declared a ‘cultural evening and feast’!
National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements demands that:
(i) the undemocratic Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 be withdrawn immediately.
(ii) the Chief Minister and Speaker issue an apology to the opposition legislators, the House and the people of Bihar for this shameful act in the Bihar Legislative Assembly and acknowledge that their actions have compromised the dignity of the House and democracy.
(iii) the Chief Minister ensures an inclusive, violence-free and appropriate debate in the House before any modifications to the powers given to the police are considered.
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Click here for signatories

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