Citizens’ Convention Against Draconian Acts

The Forum for Democratic Initiatives, Delhi, organized a Citizens’ Convention titled ‘Undeclared Emergency? Special Security Legislations and the Making of a Police State’, in the backdrop of various State governments clamouring for Special Security Acts. Though the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has enough provisions to deal with law and order issues, these Acts are being increasingly invoked to deny the arrested persons bail and extract confessions from them. This is even as the third Police Commission of India has already observed that 60 per cent of all arrests in India even under ordinary laws are unnecessary.

The laws include Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (ULAPA) 2004, as well as various state specific legislations, which have been used to crack down on political dissent including the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), the AP public security Act, the Bihar Police Act. In Uttar Pradesh, the Mayawati government has recently brought in the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA).

The FDI convenor, Radhika Menon presented the concept paper for the Convention. Delhi University teacher, Dr Ujjwal Kumar Singh, said that ‘special’ measures like detention and torture were being made ordinary and acceptable through these Acts. Praful Bidwai, senior journalist, spoke about the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and how it was complementary to the politics of Salwa Judum. The history of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in the North East was summed up by Bablu, a lawyer from Manipur. Dr Bhagat Oinam, teacher from JNU, spoke of how some of the insurgent groups in the NE in the name of which the Army justified its presence reportedly had identity cards issued by the Army itself. The situation in Uttarakhand where the BJP government is eager to present a Maoist threat in order to corner anti-Naxalite funds offered by the Central Government was presented by Girija Pathak, CPI(ML) leader from Uttarakhand. He pointed out that in the face of high profile cases routine assaults on trade unions gets forgotten but it these that which allows the normalization and introduction of Special Security Acts. PUHR activist Manoj, presented the emerging crackdowns in Uttar Pradesh on specific religious communities as well as that of the poor. Film Maker Sanjay Kak who has made a documentary on the perspective of the Kashmiri people towards the political issues in the state said how in Kashmir and North East, there already was a military State. Writer Arundhati Roy explained the predisposition of the police and judiciary to interpret such Acts according to political convenience such that even a Convention like this one could be declared illegal. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan spoke of how even the ordinary liberal foundation of Indian democracy was being undermined and said that a mass civil disobedience was called for. The report on the Bihar Police Act and political crackdown in Bihar sent by Ashok of the Lok Yudh editorial board was read out. Lalit Batra summarized the paper on legal violations by the police in West Bengal sent by Amitadyuti Kumar of APDR. FDI co-convenor, Manisha Sethi highlighted a newspaper report of the wrongful detention and torture of a Kashmir University student in Tihar Jail without the police presenting any evidence. Senior journalist Jawed Naqvi pointed out that for the poor and the deprived there was already a state of Emergency, it was just that the media was silent about it. A message by Illina sen, wife of medical doctor and PUCL activist Binayak Sen, who has been detained in solitary confinement in Chattisgarh under ULAPA 2004 and CSPSA 2005, was read out. A number of people from different walks of life participated in the Convention and stayed back for the discussion after the Convention. Pranay Krishna Srivastava, PUHR member and Jan Sanskriti Manch General Secretary summarized the proceedings and presented resolutions on a range of issues which the house passed. 

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