Agree or disagree, the judgement and order ( by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court) sentencing English professor GN Saibaba of Ram Lal Anand College (arrested on 9 May 2014), JNU student Hem Mishra and former journalist Prashant Rahi along with Mahesh Tirki and Pandu Narote to life imprisonment and and Vijay Tirki to 10 years rigorous imprisonment under sections 13, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) along with 120B of IPC on the basis of some seized papers (total 41) and a few electronic gadgets with 3TB data and tutored witnesses (23) is really very frustrating if we look from the standpoint of respect for emerging rights-based jurisprudence, highly honoured principles of independent judiciary and strict reasonability of proof. UAPA like laws (products of state repression to protect double-digit growth of corporate India) with undefined categories of offences are designed to cut short strictness of proof and rely on courts’ motivation which is undeniably susceptible to propaganda and service career considerations.

Believe it or not, the main offence, as the court viewed and uttered, the six convicts are responsible for the under-development of the district of Gadchiroli since its birth! Custodial ‘confession’ was heavily relied on as proof (extracted to furnish information to police: Section 43F, UAPA) instead of being quashed off in the interest of fair trial and as unconstitutional being compelled to stand ‘witness against himself’ (Art. 20(3)).

The court lamented that no more harsh provision than life imprisonment (maximum permissible limit of punishment) was available to it in the case. Even a decades-old slogan (‘Naxalbari ek hi Rasta’) appeared atrocious to the learned Principal District Judge Shri Suryakant S. Shinde having sufficient evidentiary value to conclude that the accused were collaborators of banned ‘Maoist’ outfit. We’re really stunned!

Now, in our country, people are punished even for committing no offence at all. Let us not forget the curse of demonetisation, modes of Aadhar imposition, and such other steps.

We ask the central government not to resurrect dreaded Draco (who favoured death penalty for stealing a cabbage) in India via UAPA and demand unconditional abolition of it along with other repressive laws which denigrate Indian democracy and demolish fundamental freedom and human rights. UAPA is denounced from every corner for its unlimited power to criminalise anything and for giving the police an unfettered power to arrest and take political revenge. The facts regarding application of the Act all over India revealed its true character as government’s sharp political knife to cut dissents and democracy against its anti-people policies and programmes. Its abolition is necessary and has to be achieved by the rights movement forging unity amongst ourselves and with broader sections of citizens. We need to forge that kind of leadership from amongst rights activists. Every government is egoistic; and in India today, this is much more so for its religious Hindutva sectarianism, corporate pressure of capital, authoritarian mode of governance and greedy leaders with myopic vision.
It’s alarming that the number of political prisoners like GN Saibaba is increasing day by day reminding the Indian citizens of the return of the ‘Emergency’ era or the ‘MISA’ days. So, let us also unite to resist this dangerous volcanic change with a fresh drive to get all political prisoners released unconditionally.

A country can never achieve its goal by making its precious human resources rot in jails for raising voice of dissent against the government.

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