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Telangana ban on 16 civil rights groups: Govt has 'little regard' for dissent, civil rights

Telangana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao with Narendra Modi 
By Our Representative 
The Telangana Praja Assembly (TPA), a coalition of rights organizations and people’s collectives and concerned citizens, have expressed “alarm” at what it has called “arbitrary and sweeping” decision of the Telangana government to declare 16 civil rights organizations as ‘unlawful’ at a time when the entire country is reeling under an “extra-ordinary pandemic” situation.
Signed by Jeevan Kumar of the Human Rights Forum; Meera Sanghamitra of the National Alliance of People’s Movements; Kanneganti Ravi of the Rythu Swarajya Vedika; P Shankar of the Dalit Bahujan Front; S Ashalatha of the Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch; Ambati Nagayya of the Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika; K Sajaya of the Caring Citizens’ Collective; M Raghavachary of the Palamuru Adhyayana Vedika; and R Venkat Reddy, a social activist, a TPA statement demanded that the state government “must withdraw GO-73 declaring 16 organizations as ‘unlawful’.”
The Telangana government issued the government order (GO) No 73 on March 30, 2021 under the Telangana Public Security Act, 1992. The GO No 73 immediately came into effect.
The statement said, as per Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India, the freedom of association is available to every Indian citizen. “Thus, the declaration as ‘unlawful’ of entire organizations without any specific charge against specific individuals for violating law of the land is unacceptable and undemocratic”, it added.
It continued, “To support the contention of the state that all these groups are ‘front organizations’ of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), some of the many questionable ‘actions’ mentioned in the GO are that they have been ‘encouraging or aiding persons to commit acts of violence’, ‘activists of these front affiliates are moving in urban areas, adopting urban guerrilla tactics’, and they have ‘staged protests for repealing the UAPA, farm laws and CAA/NRC’.
Other accusations include their ‘demand to release of Vara Vara Rao, Prof GN Sai Baba, Rona Wilson etc’, and ‘joining hands with several organisations and alluring the members into their folds inciting inflammatory statements, meetings, and rallies highlighting various issues against the Central and State governments’ etc., the statement said.
Calling these accusations “vague and sweeping without any onus on the government to prove commission of unlawful actions”, the statement said, “Many of the reasons listed clearly indicate that the government does not want public-spirited organizations to raise awareness on people’s rights and the responsibility of the state.”
It asked, “How and why is it a crime to seek the release of political prisoners like Varavara Rao or Rona Wilson or Prof. Saibaba or protest against draconian laws like UAPA? When the entire country has been protesting the anti-farmer farm laws and even the Telangana government initially took this stand, how is protesting against these destructive laws a crime? When the Telangana assembly itself passed a resolution against the unconstitutional CAA-NRC-NPR, how does opposing this become a reason for declaring these organizations as ‘unlawful’?”
“Ever since the formation of Telangana in 2014, the attacks on the right to organize and dissent have been incessant”, the statement asserted, adding, “From the shameless closure of Dharna Chowk to the recent NIA raids on activists in the Telugu states, the democratic space to question the failures and excesses of the state in the past seven years have shrunk completely.”
Telangana govt issued GO No 73 on March 30 under the Telangana Public Security Act, 1992. The GO immediately came into effect
It demanded, instead of such acts, at a time when Telangana, like the rest of India “is also facing the most severe pandemic crisis and can ill-afford to divert its resources or focus elsewhere”, the government “must invest all its energies and attention in ensuring maximum vaccination, increasing beds, pharma and medicare support, blood, plasma, oxygen supply etc to the Covid affected.”

PFI, NCHRO protest move

In a statement, Popular Front of India (PFI) general secretary Anis Ahmed, taking “strong exception” to the Telengana government decision of banning 16 organizations, said, “The reasons set out in the controversial order are vague and strengthen the suspicion that it is a mere vindictive action by the state government against political dissent.”
It believed, “Denying space to function democratically in the society pushes people to loose faith in our cherished democratic values. If the government has evidence against an individual or an organization for committing anything illegal, it should have brought its case before a court of law and proved. Instead, such repressive action is a disturbing trend and is detrimental to a democratic society.”
Another civil rights group, the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), calling the state government move “authoritarian”, said, the 16 organisations including the well-known Revolutionary Writers’ Association, have been banned on account of their alleged connection with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and with the government also claiming that these have been “involved” in inciting people against the government, and in adopting “urban guerrilla tactics”.
Insisting that “there is no evidence that has been presented to back these claims”, the NCHRO statement, signed by Prof P Koya, its general secretary, said, “The government has also egregiously claimed that the organisations have been banned because their members have been associated with the effort to release Professor GN Saibaba, who is 90% handicapped and has been in jail continuously since 2016.”
“Additionally”, it said, “The Telangana government cited the case of Elgar Parishad, also known as the Bhima Koregaon case, in which 15 activists, writers, academicians, etc. are currently in jail. The government said that the now banned organisations were involved in the effort to release Rona Wilson and Varavara Rao, who have been locked up in the said Bhima Koregaon case.”
NCHRO said, “The Elgar Parishad case that the government has cited as part of the justification for banning the said organisations, have been exposed as a patent fabrication. In an investigation by the ‘Washington Post’, it was revealed that the files were planted in the laptop of Rona Wilson, the same files that have been presented as key evidence for the guilt of the accused in the case.”

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