June 13, 2012
Statement from COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
If a police officer can take exception to the possession of a book on Shaheed Bhagat Singh as part of the several books shown in the seizure list of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay, questioning the motive of the two to read on the life of the great martyr, well that sums up the growing climate of an undeclared emergency being enforced with impunity on any form of political dissent that fundamentally articulate the interests of the vast sections of the masses of the people.
In 2010, when Seema and Vishwa Vijay were arrested from Khuldabad, Allahabad, several PUCL members had opposed their arrest pointing out that they had been framed as they were working extensively against land mafias and anti-people policies of the government. Though the arrests were made by the special task force, the case was later handed over to the anti-terrorism squad of UP so as to primarily deal it as an act of ‘terrorism’ a much abused word by the powers that be. For more than two and a half years the case is being tried in the Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates in Allahabad. It is not an accident that the judge who had heard the entire proceedings of the case was transferred just before the verdict was supposed to be given. So while sentencing Seema and Vishwa Vijay for life on charges of criminal conspiracy, waging war and under several provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) the Additional District Judge Sunil Kumar Singh, further slapped a fine of about Rs 70,000 on the couple.
As the Organising Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Uttar Pradesh and editor of the magazine Dastak Seema had consistently reported and gave voice to the growing dissent of the people against the anti-people policies of the government in the form of Ganga Expressway which brought forth the nexus of the politicians, bureaucrats and the land mafia. As we may recall the Ganga Expressway can result in the displacement of thousands of peasantry. It was her initiative to expose the increasing arbitrary arrests, torture and incarceration of Muslim youth in Azamgarh. The magazine Dastak became a vehicle for expressing the voice of the voiceless. And this is precisely what the government would want us to believe as ‘waging war against the state’! And this is why the police officer would find fault with both of them, for ‘waging war’ with the state, for reading Bhagat Singh at a time when the country is growing and growing, but the condition of the people are going from bad to worse!
At a time when the governments at the state and the centre have been spending heavily on the way people perceive the changes that occur before them as part of the strategy of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ to generate a consensus towards a policy of displacement, destruction, destitution and death in the name of development, it becomes inevitable that voices like that of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay are silenced. Already the state has sensed that there is a mounting public opinion and discontentment among the vast sections of the democratic and freedom people of the country against the continuing incarceration of Seema and Vishwa Vijay. Little wonder that the perception managers have already started planting ‘horror’ stories of ‘mass unrest’ being hatched out under the garb of protesting against the unjust verdict of the sessions court. This is further evidence to show how the state is not leaving any stone unturned towards criminalising any form of dissent against the denial of fundamental rights to the people to express their views without fear or favour.
The verdict against Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay is against the grain of fundamental rights of the people of the subcontinent as it goes a long way in criminally profiling any political dissent or opinion or even spreading that as ‘waging war’ against the state. The state would tell us how we should think and express ourselves. We can be only part of the state in ‘managing’ the perception of the people. We cannot say a word against the growth stories that abound the press—electronic as well as print. As capital is development and development is capital—the presence or absence of it, capital is ready to satiate the perception of development too. You can only consume that perception; you just cannot go against it. Any perception or thinking that goes against the predatory, violent necessities of capital couched in the discourse of development has been termed ‘waging war’, ‘criminal conspiracy’ against the state! The need to stand up against the verdict of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay is a necessity for the struggle for our fundamental rights, our freedoms, our right to think critically and choose the life that we deem fit in the interests and well being of vast sections of the masses of people. The state and the government of Uttar Pradesh should release Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay Unconditionally!
Secretary, Public Relations
Statement from PUDR
PUDR strongly condemns the verdict of a lower Court in Allahabad awarding life sentence to Civil Rights activist Seema Azad and her spouse Vishvvijay on charges of sedition, waging war and under several provisions of the draconian law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Additional District Judge Sunil Kumar Singh, while pronouncing the order, also slapped a fine of approximately Rs 70,000 on the couple. The couple were arrested from Lukerganj locality in Allahabad on February 6, 2010 by the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh, which claimed that Maoist literature was recovered from their possession and that they were associated with a banned organization, the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Their arrests were made by the Special Task Force, but the case was later handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad of UP making it a case involving terrorist activity.
Seema Azad’s incarceration and sentence is a clear case of silencing dissident voices. Her arrest followed Seema’s active chronicle of people’s movement. She was actively associated with women’s liberation front till 2001 and with the revolutionary students’ movement till 2004. Seema is also an active member of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh. Furthering her concern towards violation of people’s rights she brought out a new magazine, Dastak, which carried out a thorough investigation of the Ganga Expressway plan which threatened to displace thousands of farmers. She published the findings of her survey in form of a booklet and distributed copies. Dastak also published a long report on the arbitrary arrests and torture of Muslim youth in Azamgarh. Seema’s arrest came in the wake of the growing efforts to sensitize people of violation of their rights and other concerns relating to human rights. Seema and Vishvvijay’s arrests were a move to crush such efforts on the pretext of containing efforts of incitement against the government. Following the detention, bail petitions were presented in court many a times. Each time the petition was rejected for Seema’s ‘dangerousness’ to the status quo constructing a civil rights activist into a naxal. Seema’s conviction is one of the many cases where proscription under UAPA shows its true colours. By banning an organisation as “terrorist” and thereby banning even its literature, it becomes possible for authorities to target anyone by accusing that person of having links with a banned organisation. Thus legitimate activities become unlawful and therefore offensive.
PUDR staunchly denounces the judgement as being representative of the efforts of the government to squash critical voices and extends support to the cause taken up by activists such as Seema Azad.