December 10 at 10:00am until December 11 at 5:30pm
Tuljha Bhawan, Hyderabad
CONVENTION AGAINST DRACONIAN LAWS
ORGANIZED BY COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
1. Repeal all Draconian Laws including AFSPA and UAPA.
2. All arrested on political grounds should be recognized as Political Prisoners.
3. Release all Political Prisoners unconditionally.
4. Remove all Armed Forces.
Contact: 9810081228, 9810149990, firstname.lastname@example.org
The end of World War II saw a renewed scramble for the world market led by US imperialism, which displaced the suzerainty of British domination of the world economy in their relentless search for surplus maximisation—a ceaseless demand of imperialist capital. While direct subjugation of the colonies made way to indirect forms of domination and exploitation resulting in the transfer of power to the local representatives of imperialist capital, in many erstwhile colonies, the emerging structures of governance/control had to keep in mind the growing resentment of the peoples of the world against colonial rule. The emergence of the state in erstwhile colonies after World War II had the image of imperialist domination and oppression subsumed in it as many a repressive, draconian law of colonial vintage found its proper place in the newly made constitution and legal apparatus of these countries. The trajectory of state building and the rule of law were very much imbued in the image of imperialism, the insatiable needs of moribund capital which had its able representatives in the political and business elite of many of these countries of which the scenario in South Asia was little different.
Post-1947, India witnessed draconian laws of colonial vintage being reinvented and selectively used with impunity against people raising their democratic aspirations, right to livelihood, for a dignified existence, for their right to self-determination. The old repressive machinery of the colonial state with its Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, the Police Act of 1861, Defence of India Rules, Preventive Detention Acts, not to speak of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, which empowers the central and state governments of supposedly independent India to acquire land by advancing the pretext of ‘eminent domain’, ‘public purpose’, and many others were perfected over the years by the ruling classes to inflict more misery on the people. The Preventive Detention Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that were used by the British came handy for the new ruling class as it was used in the North East and Kashmir. Later the North East also saw the imposition of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (1967) which was copied from the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance brought by the British in 1942. Today the same law has been revamped with more teeth and implemented.
Since the 1950s till date every draconian law that received the gravest wrath of the masses of the people was then rehashed into another law with yet stringent clauses. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the present UAPA is in a way a clever rehashing of the old MISA, NSA, TADA, POTA etc. rolled into one made more stringent with the worst kind of clauses to stifle all forms of dissent. State-wise enactment of laws equivalent to the UAPA has also been undertaken. Further there is a concerted effort to form the notorious National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) along with the already constituted National Investigating Agency (NIA). Once made fully operational, these can give unrestrained powers to the centre to intervene in the day to day affairs of any region, thereby completely exposing the hollowness of the federal union that is India.
As a reflection of the imminent need of moribund capital to maintain the level of profit, we see the aggressive implementation of the policies of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) by successive governments in India since 1991 inflicting massive impoverisation of vast sections of the people in the subcontinent. Rural economies—which have traditionally been the employment and livelihood provider for more than 70 percent of the population—have been stagnant with lesser and lesser opportunities. The agrarian economy is facing the worst ever stagnation with little support from the government. In fact, the state has over the last decade steadily reduced its expenditure in the agrarian economy which has aggravated the situation from bad to worse. Every day we hear the tell tale stories of suicide deaths of debt-ridden peasants while there are many untold stories of social boycott of Dalits, the systematic arson of their households let alone rape and murder. The beginning of the 21st century has brought forth the worsening character of this moribund capital—deeply enmeshed in the worst ever economic crisis since the days of Great Depression of the 1930s—creating havoc in the Indian subcontinent thus sharpening the contradictions among the ruling classes.
Today the subcontinent is witness to a wave of people’s movements such as those for the right to life and livelihood, against displacement, anti-feudal and anti-caste movements, movements based on land, nationality movements, anti-nuclear, anti-dam movements and so forth. These movements directly or indirectly oppose the pro-imperialist policies of ‘Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization’. In this scenario, the so-called ‘war against terror’ has become a convenient tool to criminally profile the rising voices of dissent, especially the Muslim community – the majority of whom live in abysmal poverty and discrimination. We saw in a series of sensational bomb blast cases Muslim youth being incarcerated under trumped up charges. The sensation-driven media cooked up the plot with incriminating media trials even before the law took cognisance of the cases. Thus even before the person gets a chance to defend himself/herself before the court of law, they are tried several times by a considerable section of the jingoist-communal media.
Many of the Muslim youth from UP, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan have become cannon fodder for the so-called ‘war against terror’ of the state as alleged members of proscribed organisations the existence of which are never proved. The Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has been banned till date and the state is yet to prove a cogent case before the tribunal about the veracity of the ban as many of the charges on this organisation have fallen flat. The Hindu communal elements as well as the parliamentary parties in Kerala/Karnataka including the CPM have stoked the flames of communalism under the garb of ‘love jihad’ to criminally profile the Muslim youth. Kashmiri Muslims are easy targets for the grist mill of the ‘war against terror’ as it is common sense to accept the incarceration or fake encounter of a Kashmiri youth in the Indian subcontinent. There are numerous undeclared detention/torture centres in Jammu and Kashmir. The Srinagar Bar Association and the leaders of various people’s movements in Kashmir have time and again highlighted the plight of the Kashmiri Muslim prisoners kept in various jails in Jammu. These prisoners – mostly under-trials – are subjected to the worst kinds of treatment. The North East also is witnessing the increasing incarceration of people as the protests against mega-dams are on the rise in this region. A large number of people who have been raising the demand for the Right to Self-Determination are being imprisoned for years together with Manipuris, Nagas and Assamese being specific targets. Besides, scores of Sikhs, Kamtapuris, Bodos, Dimasas, Eelam Tamils, and till recently, even Burmese freedom fighters find themselves behind bars for years together being treated like the worst of criminals. Even the elderly among them who are suffering from various ailments are not considered for bail on health grounds.
Manmohan Singh has already made it clear that with evident signs of a perilously slow economy of the subcontinent — aggravated by the tightening grip of imperialism riddled with the worst global economic crisis — all aspects of development should henceforth be considered a national security issue. Thus, any dissent against the full fledged implementation of the pro-imperialist policies of Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation will be considered anti-development and hence ‘anti-national’, and also might be branded as ‘seditious’.
As an extension of the same approach the Chhattisgarh government have further criminalised the Adivasis of Bastar by declaring unlawful their carrying of traditional weapons. Already criminalised under various laws, the direct fallout is that a large number of these adivasis are being implicated in serious cases. Thousands of ordinary villagers are routinely picked up during search operations, incarcerated with impunity by security personnel having scant regard for legal procedure. Most of them implicated under “Naxal Offence” and are not produced in the courts for long periods of time, on the pretext of non-availability of “sufficient police guards”. Hence, the trial does not proceed for years together. Out of economic difficulty and for fear of harassment, family members of the under-trials are unable to visit them in jail, thus making them even more vulnerable. The adivasi “Naxal undertrials” are only kept in Central Jails. In many cases in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Jungal Mahal they are put in far away jails with maximum security, so much so that their regular production in court becomes impossible. In these regions, the prisoners have petitioned the higher courts, all of which proved to be futile. Most of the adivasi under-trials are dependent on government legal-aid-lawyers who more often than not never go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often they are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution. Seldom do the courts have official interpreters/translators to enable the adivasi communicate in their own language.
The plight of the Dalits and other oppressed sections is no different. As the state gets desperate to stifle the voices of dissent, more and more human rights defenders, journalists, cultural activists are coming under the cross-hairs of its repressive machine such as the Kabir Kala Manch, Jeetan Marandi, Utpal, Sudhir Dhawle, Abdul Nasser Maudany, Lingaram Kodopi, Qasim Mohammad Fakhtoo, Anthony Shimray, Dayamani Barla, Dr. Sunilam, Medha Patkar. The list goes on and appears to be endless. Last but not the least, thousands of Maoists and people sympathetic to their cause also has been put behind bars with several false cases tagged to them. The conditions of women political prisoners are worse with many of them not even lodged in special barracks, devoid of health care facilities, without charge sheets filed against them, and not even being produced before the court. Several political prisoners immediately after being granted bail or while acquitted are rearrested with fresh charges right before the prison from where they are released.
It is evident from the way the state indulges in desperate acts to silence all forms of dissent that it is the worst violator of the law and constitution of the ‘land of the largest democracy of the world’. It is also obvious that all arrests in matters of political dissent are political in nature and the state machinery is indulging in all these illegal, authoritarian and fascist acts with impunity under the umbrella of the worst kind of draconian laws to ensure that the political prisoner remains within the prison for life.