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Fundamental right to free and peaceful assembly brutally violated in Kolkata

By Krishna Bandyopadhyay, Rangta Munshi* 
On Monday, the 29th of January 2024, at 6:45 p.m. in the evening, a peaceful assembly of citizens of India, at the Kolkata International Book Fair held at Karunamoyee, Salt Lake, was brutally attacked by police officers from Bidhan Nagar North P.S. acting at the behest of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, and with the complicit involvement of superior police officers. Senior citizens were beaten to the ground, their glasses were destroyed. Male police officers, in the absence of female officers, physically beat up women and even bit into a female comrade's hand, drawing blood.
Police officers from Bidhan Nagar North P.S. have unleashed a brutal regime of police terror upon peaceful citizens who wanted to submit a deputation to the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, protesting the incidents on Sunday, 28th Jan, one day prior, where Bidhan Nagar North Police are implicated already.
As the country's oldest human rights organisation,  we, the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, vehemently oppose this autocratic police terror employed against peacefully protesting citizens of India.
Police have not worn their name tags in violation of legal procedure. Police officers have been lying under oath, with ridiculous false and even unconstitutional  statements such as, "The Book Fair has permanent application of Sec 144 of IPC", among others. 
Police officers made citizens of India sign on blank arrest memos, where any offence suiting the police's tastes may be applied without any real basis whatsoever.
We demand urgent and immediate action to be taken according to law. We demand that police officers who assaulted women be punished as per law. We demand the malpractice and high handed terror tactics employed by police be punished to the strictest extent as per law. We demand swift and unbiased judicial probe into the unconstitutional and illegal actions of the police.
Earlier, on Sunday the 28th of January 2024, at 5:30 p.m., a peaceful protest at the Kolkata International Bookfair, Karunamoyee, Salt Lake City, was brutally attacked by officers from Bidhan Nagar North Police Station, in front of Gate Number 5 of the Book Fair. 9 students have been arrested, they have been whisked away on false charges, for medical examination. An arrest memo has not been served. The charges and corresponding sections under which they have been arrested have not been communicated to them.
What little has been communicated by the police at the moment of arrest was that this happened on the instruction of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild. 
In a public space, the fundamental right to free and peaceful assembly as enshrined in Section III of the Indian Constitution has been brutally violated by Bidhan Nagar North P.S. officers acting at the behest of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild and/or with the complicit involvement of superior police officers, all of whom have violated one of the fundamental tenets of the law.
We waited outside Bidhan Nagar North P.S. Bidhan Nagar North P.S. has gathered other officers and a detention van bearing the insignia WB Police Barasat PD. We did not know if we would be arrested as we waited.
The Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), as the country’s oldest human rights organisation, strongly condemns this brutal repression of the fundamental right to peaceful assembly. We demand the immediate release of those detained unlawfully, without the blatantly lawless slapping of spurious and baseless charges against them. In our 52 - year history, we have noticed countless such instances of mindless and unlawful brutal police crackdown on free speech and expression and on peaceful assembly. We condemn this in the strictest terms.
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*Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights

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