Kerala: Statement against the arrest of five activists and charged with UAPA

May 19, 2016

CPDR TAMIL NADU DEMANDS THE UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF THE 5 ACTIVISTS – AJITHAN, CHATTU, SABU, DILEEPAN AND GOWRI – ARRESTED IN KERALA

CPDR-TN condemns in no uncertain terms the arrest of 5 activists on 3rd May 2016, under the draconian act UAPA, for displaying posters calling upon people to boycott voting during election.

The five activists arrested are Ajithan, Chattu, Sabu, Dileepan and Gowri.

Ajithan, Chattu, Saabu are members of Porattam, which has been organizing struggles against tolls in highway, pollution of river at Kaathikooda, welfare and rights of contract workers etc. Porattam had given a call for boycott of elections. Dileepan is a member of Padantharam, a student organisation that has been fighting the issue of repayment of bank loans students, autonomy of educational institutions, discrimination amongst students within educational institutions etc. Gowri is a member of Adivasi Samara Sangam a tribal organisation working for the welfare and rights of adivasis.

CPDR-TN considers that the right to vote encompasses within itself the right not to vote as well. This being the case, campaign during elections should also include the campaign against voting. This has been endorsed by the Supreme Court in a recent judgement on right to vote. Thus attempt to throttle the campaign against voting itself constitutes a denial of the right to make citizens aware of their sovereign authority over the elected, which should be treated as integral to any fair electoral practice.

The enforcement of code of conduct during elections and acting against its violations (e.g. use of abusive and defamatory language against contestants, use of divisive, communal, religion overtones to gather votes) is the responsibility of the election commission. In this specific instance, the police has usurped the judicial functioning of the election commission, by arresting those campaigning against voting and charging them under UAPA; thus, making a mockery of the democratic functioning of the executive.

CPDR-TN considers such repressive action by the Kerala police as an infringement upon the right to freedom of expression enshrined under fundamental rights of the republican constitution.

CPDR-TN considers that slapping UAPA by merely branding people as Maoists, is in total violation of any norms of republican democracy. In fact, the Kerala High Court has in a recent judgement ‘Balakrishnan vs State of Kerala’ pointed out that being a Maoist does not constitute a crime in itself.

Also, recalling an earlier occasion when a similar arrest of Ajithan for a poll boycott campaign was quashed by the Kerala High Court, these recent arrests by the police authorities and thereupon slapping UAPA has exposed the vindictive nature of the executive, failing to take cognizance of interpretation of law by the judiciary during the case of P. J. Manuel vs State of Kerala.

CPDR-TN reiterates that by slapping UAPA on the 5 activists, Kerala police has resorted to indiscriminate abuse of a draconian law under the garb of maintaining electoral democracy.

CPDR-TN calls for (i) immediate withdrawal of the cases foisted upon Ajithan, Chathu, Saabu, Gowri and Dileepan and release them unconditionally and (ii) the immediate scrapping of the draconian UAPA.

-S.GOPAL,
[General Secretary, CPDR-TN]

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Statement from Radical Study Circle, TISS

Release the Arrested Activists in Kerala
Repeal UAPA and Other Draconian Laws

As part of the Indian state’s war against people’s movements and freedom of expression, five more activists have been arrested and charged with UAPA in Kerala on 3rd May, 2016. The arrested activists are accused of putting up posters calling for the boycott of the upcoming assembly election in Kerala. Among the arrested, Ajithan, Sabu and Chathu are members of an organization called ‘Porattam’ which had given a call to boycott elections in Kerala, Dileep is a student’s activist and editorial committee member of a student’s magazine called ‘Padantharam’ and Gouri is part of Adivasi Samara Sangam. While four of them were arrested for putting up the posters to boycott elections, Dileep was dragged with them while he was talking to Ajithan Sabu, in Kerala Sahitya academy compound where he had gone to attend a meeting regarding the rape and murder of a dalit student named Jisha.

Kerala police has started “Operation Thunder Bolt” in 2013 in the Western Ghats said to be against the Maoist insurgencies. But in the name of the same, the state is witch hunting activists who have spoken against resource plunder and anti-people policy of the government. Comrade Ajithan was a worker and also a trade union activist in the diamond workers factory. Furthermore, he has also been part of many movements like Anti BOT-toll collecting agitation in Paliyekkara, Kathikoodam agitation against illegal mining, Ambattan Tharissu anti-mining agitation and people’s movement against money lending mafia in Kerala. Dileep was organizing students and parents who were trapped in student loans, and also was part of protests against the autonomy of colleges. Gauri and Chathu are from the adivasi community and have been condemning the state atrocities in the Adivasi colonies.

The Supreme Court verdict on the case, PUCL vs Union of India, states that “not to vote” and “campaign to not vote” is as much a right as to vote and campaign to vote. It is an irony that while the Kerala police has been manipulating evidences in the case of the murder and rape of a Dalit girl Jisha, yet the police is quick to charge draconian laws like UAPA on activists only putting up posters. In the time of corporate loot and resource plunder lead by the state and union government it is natural for the people to search for alternative movements than to blindly believe in a system of parliamentary election. Charging UAPA on activists is part of a larger agenda to silence any movement which can’t be bribed by the existing power structure.

• We urge the democratic right activists to immediately intervene for the release of the arrested activists

• We demand the immediate and unconditional release of activists Aithan, Sabu, Dileep, Gouri and Chathu and all other political prisoners across the country

• We demand to repeal UAPA and all other draconian laws

RADICAL STUDY CIRCLE, TISS MUMBAI