COMMITTEE FOR PROTECTION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS – TAMIL NADU
(CPDR-TN)

invites you to a public meeting

on

“Throttling voices of democracy with draconian laws”

Venue: Madras Reporters Guild, Chepauk

Saturday, February 9, at 4pm.

Speakers:

Retd. Justice Hari Paranthaman (Chennai High Court)
Advocate Kranti Chaitanya (Civil Liberties Committee, Andhra Pradesh)
Prof. A. Marx (President, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations)
Prof. Karunananthan (CPDR-TN)
Sr. Advocate Sankara Subbu (Chennai High Court)
Advocate Bharathi (Democratic Advocates Association)
Advocate Raja (Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties)
Advocate Milton (Peoples Rights Protection Centre)
Advocate Pughazhendi (Centre for Prisoners Right)

**************

THROTTLING VOICES OF DEMOCRACY WITH DRACONIAN LAWS

Draconian laws have been an effective tool at the hands of the ruling powers throughout the world. In India, we have witnessed the same since the colonial times.

2019 marks the 100th year of the enactment of the infamous Rowlatt Act by the British rulers. Back in 1919, in the backdrop of growing protest against the colonial rule, the colonial powers had enacted this draconian provision. This act effectively authorized the government to imprison any person suspected of terrorism living in British India for up to two years without a trial, and gave the imperial authorities power to deal with all revolutionary activities.This legislation paved the way for stricter control of the press, arrests of revolutionaries without warrant, indefinite detention without trial, and trials without jury for proscribed political acts.

That repressive law was enacted when India was under a foreign rule. However, even after independence, Indian state has enacted special acts from time to time ⎯NSA, MISA, TADA,POTA⎯ whenever the government had faced imminent crisis. While MISA,TADA, POTA were all scrapped due to raising voices of dissent against the misuse of the provisions of the law, UAPA was enacted carrying all the draconian provisions that was existing earlier in TADA and POTA. Thus, we have now come back a full circle in the “world’s largest democracy”. Enacted in 1967, in its original form, it gave unilateral powers to the state to ban any organisation which was advocating secession. After undergoing several amendments since turn of the century, the act now gives unlimited the powers of the state to arrest any citizen who is accused of “causing disaffection against India” or can detain people who can effect such disaffection.

What does this disaffection mean? It means that if one dares to speak in favour of the rights of the adivasis to live on their land (in accordance with the forest rights act) or the rights of the farmers to till their land or the rights of the workers to unionize, or if one stands by the sides of the Muslims and dalits who are increasingly living on the margins of our society, then she may be charged under UAPA ⎯ thereby projecting an anti-government resistance into “anti-national activities”! In summary, anything that disturbs the ideologies of the Hindutva forces or tries to upset the aims and economic aspirations of the Indian capitalists or the World Bank are equated with causing disaffection against India. UAPA thus proves to be a weapon the state has in its project in creating an authoritarian state with neo-liberal agenda.

In last two decades the law has been increasingly used against the dalits and the adivasis and the Muslims. During the previous UPA regime, it became an effective tool through which the state aided mining corporations and the private mining companies had carried out loot by terming anyone who opposed illegal mining as a Maoist. The current government has extended the use of this law to all walks of life. Workers who organise the unorganised workers like Mazadoor Sangathan Samiti of Jharkhand (a union which existed legally for over twenty years and had 22,000 tribal workers as registered members) or workers of Bombay Electricity Employees Union are arrested under the UAPA and kept in jail for extended period thus decimating their union.

Political activists who oppose current policies of the government are termed Urban Naxals and are arrested under the UAPA. The attack on the democratic rights of all sections of the society has become a regular occurrence in the last few years as under the present regime of RSS-BJP there is a spurt of arrests of activists, journalists, workers, lawyers from all over India under UAPA. In recent times notable public intellectuals, who are known to have stood for the oppressed and marginalized sections of the society through their writings, speeches or activities, have been targeted under alleged attempts to assassinate the Prime Minister purportedly due to the dictats of the Maoists and also in connection with the celebration of the Bhima-Koregaon celebration organized by the Elgar Parishad with two retired judges at the helm of the event. These include democratic rights activist Rona Wilson, Advocate Gadling, Advocate Arun Ferreira, rural activist Mahesh Raut, trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, intellectual and democratic rights activists like Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Prof. Soma Sen, poet Varavara Rao. There is also a real possibility of an imminent arrest of academic and rights activist Prof. Anand Teltumbde on the same fabrication of having Maoist links.

As the crisis surrounding farmers, workers, Muslims, dalits and tribals intensify and the real agendas of BJP-led government becomes more evident to the people, and the paranoia of this regime increases. Hence they use all the tools at their disposal to quell fundamental rights of the people like rights of freedom of expression, free speech and right to form association. The democratic rights workers mentioned earlier as well as several others have always been critical of the anti-people government policies which include the violation of rights to free expression, state’s resorting to death penalty, government’s neglect of acute agrarian crisis, curtail of free medical support through primary health care centres and the present government’s open justification of communal attacks. Hence, it is no wonder that the governments of free India had retained and implemented draconian laws to target the true democracy-loving citizens of the country, though the colonial power had to withdraw the draconian law of Rowlatt Act within 3 years under public pressure.

In this context it is solicited that all the democratic rights organizations and democrats and right thinking concerned citizens come together to discuss the means and modes for resisting such a drastic situation we are encountering. This solidarity of all democratic-minded people alone will pave the way for a conducive atmosphere of repeal of all anti-people policies.

We demand:

* Scrapping of the UAPA.

* Rescind false charges under UAPA against democratic rights activists, journalists, trade unionists and others voicing opinion against governmental policies.

* Withdraw UAPA slapped on activists on false premises in Bhima–Koregaon violence case and release them unconditionally.

* Stop hounding democratic rights activist Prof. Anand Teltumbde and withdraw unconditionally the false charges foisted upon him.