The notable rise in the recent cases of sedition in India, urge the question of the origins and relevance of the law in contemporary times. Is the a law a mere colonial residue which treats citizens as subjects, or is it essential in troubled times to keep the fabric of the nation from falling apart?
This piece comments on the Bhima Koregaon arrests, the multitude of problems with the UAPA as well as its empirically evident history of sinister targeting of those defending the powerless against State excesses. UAPA criminalises ideology and association. By virtue of declaring an organisation 'unlawful’ or/and ‘terrorist’ and banning them, it criminalises their ideologies de facto” and verily creates a regime of thought crimes. A disturbing pattern of targeting those working for the rights of minorities subscribing to ideologies at variance with that of the dominant state brass emerges if one were to look at those who were detained for years under the UAPA.
International law recognises the practice of enforced disappearance as a distinct offence and States have an obligation under international law to not partake in such arbitrary deprivations of liberty and human dignity. Article 1 of the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance places a non–derogable prohibition against enforced disappearance. While Pakistan has taken steps, India is woefully behind in recognising enforced disappearance as a distinct offence.
The arrests of human rights activists and lawyers on August 28 and earlier on June 6, 2018 are all part of a wider theatre of Hindutva’s state-sponsored repression on those demanding democratic rights and freedoms for the most marginalised of Indian citizens. What began with Bhima-Koregaon had actually begun long back, with the atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis crossing the political threshold, such as those in Una and Saharanpur, as well as the ‘institutional murder’ of Rohith Vemula in January 2016.
Minal Gadling, the wife of advocate Surendra Gadling, on behalf of the five activists arrested on June 6, 2018 — including her husband Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson — has approached the Supreme Court seeking intervention in a petition filed by Romila Thapar and others. She has prayed for extending the benefit of Supreme Court’s order passed on August 29, 2018 in Romila Thapar case to all the above-named persons who are under arrest since last two months.
Courts in five different places, including Delhi High Court, Faridabad court, Pune sessions court, Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court, have addressed the police’s recent targeting of lawyers, activists and writers, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in petitions filed by concerned members of the academic fraternity.
Given the multi-state nature of the raids and the requisite inter-force coordination, it is fair to conclude that the clampdown flowed from the highest echelons of the ruling regime. This campaign of hatred, isolation, and trolling aims at maligning and subverting all dissenters and activists critical of the government (and the BJP) by either false-flagging them as “security threats to India” or labelling them as extended affiliates of militant movements without any solid evidence.
'We the undersigned civil society organisations/ groups/ collectives, have jointly convened this urgent Press Conference to condemn the appalling state actions of reprisals against noted human rights activists and intellectuals, which are clearly politically motivated and an attempt to stifle voices of dissent. The unjustified raids on and arbitrary arrests of the above public spirited individuals who have tirelessly worked for the cause of the poor and marginalized sections of society, are nothing but an attack on Indian democracy and an attempt to undermine the democratic fabric of our society.'
‘Sudha Bharadwaj is an embodiment of the best in our profession — a fearless critic of governmental lawlessness, an emphatic and empathetic advocate amplifying the voices of those who are rarely heard within the corridors of power, and a beacon for future generations of lawyers in this country.’
In a ‘historic’ encounter, as was reported by the DIG, Anti-Naxal Squad, DM Awasthi, 15 ‘Maoists’ were shot dead in Sukma by the District Regional Guards (DRG) on the early morning of August 6, 2018. However, the villagers from Gompad, Nulkatong, Vellpocha, Kinderpad and Etagata have a completely different story to tell — stories of haunting memories of the past and terror of today. Accompanying a fact-finding team called for by the adivasi activist Soni Sori to look into the incident, The Leaflet’s Kritika Agarwal heard and recorded the unspeakable stories as recounted by the eyewitnesses, as she came face-to-face with the terrifying and recurring truth of unparalleled violence on innocents perpetrated in the name of security.