Around 70 Eminent Personalities Condemn Invocation of UAPA against Students and Activists, Demand Their Release
NEW DELHI, MAY 1— “When governments all over the world are fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi government using the opportunity created by the lockdown is fighting dissidents and abolishing them of their fundamental rights and people are being picked up and put in jails under fictitious cases,” said around 70 eminent figures of civil society in a joint statement on Thursday.
In the last two weeks, around half a dozen youth activists and students were booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and some of them were arrested and sent to jail.
“We, a group of activists and citizens of India, express our deep concern over the recent arrests on the false pretext that have been taking place using the regressive Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the Union government,” reads the statement signed by noted figures including Githa Hariharan, Justice BG Kolse Patil, Harsh Mander, Mallika Sarabhai, Medha Patkar and John Dayal.
Recent Arrests under UAPA
-- On April 14, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha were arrested by National Investigative Agency (NIA) in the Bhima-Koregaon case.
-- On April 20, Jammu and Kashmir police booked Masrat Zahra, a 26-year-old photojournalist.
-- On April 20, Delhi Police booked Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar in a case related to North East Delhi riots and arrested. Former JNU research scholar Umar Khalid was also booked.
-- On April 26, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, the President of Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association and a member of Jamia Coordination Committee was booked for alleged involvement in the North-East Delhi riots and was subsequently arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.
-- On April 27, Delhi Police went to AISA's Delhi President Kawalpreet Kaur’s house and seized her mobile phone in the name of enquiry into the North-East Delhi violence. She was booked under UAPA.
On December 17, Assam-based anti-corruption and Right to Information activist Akhil Gogoi was charged with sedition, intention to cause riot against national integration, and unlawful association under UAPA.
“Looking at all the cases together, we firmly believe that the extremely draconian and regressive amended UAPA law has been strategically put in place to exterminate both, dissent and dissidents during the lockdown period due to COVID-19 pandemic,” said the civil society leaders.
“UAPA allows the government to proscribe individuals as terrorists and permits more officers of the National Investigation Agency to probe cases. A person charged under the act can be jailed for up to seven years. While passing the law in Rajya Sabha in 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that "UAPA’s only purpose was to fight terrorism", but now it is being used as a tool for intimidating citizens and eliminating opposition being faced by the government on various of its policies,” they charged.
Govt. Trying to Save Real Culprits of Delhi Violence by Blaming and Arresting Anti-CAA Protesters: Civil Society Leaders
In the joint statement, the civil society figures have charged the central government for saving the culprits of Delhi violence by blaming and arresting anti-CAA-NRC protesters.
“With the help of these arrests, the Union government is trying its best to put the blame of North East Delhi riots on Anti-CAA, NRC and NPR protestors and change the narrative altogether as they did in the Bhima Koregaon case. These arrests are being made despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urging all states to release “every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” on 3 April 2020.”
They further said: “Union government is saving the real culprits, whereas, young students, activists and coordination committee members who participated in the Anti-CAA protests in different parts of India are being wrongfully arrested. It is an engineered attempt to save indictable people affiliated to the right-wing ruling party like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who are still at large.”
The civil society leaders have demanded release of the students and activists arrested under UAPA.
“We strongly condemn these unethical attempts being made by the Union government to change the narrative of these engineered acts of violence time and again. We stand together in solidarity with the people that are being suppressed by these regressive laws and demand their immediate release. We also request all citizens to come and stand in solidarity against the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and its targeted misuse by the State, especially during the lockdown due to COVID-19, to silence and threaten activists, students and organisations that are critical of the central government,” reads the statement signed by the following personalities:
A C Michael, Former Member Delhi Minorities Commission
Abha Bhaiya, social activist, Himachal
Abhishek Khandelwal, Advocate
Abuzar Choudhary, Social Activist, Anhad
Anand Mazgaonkar, Social Activist, Gujarat
Anil Chamadia, Journalist-Writer
Annie Raja, National General Secretary, NFIW
Anuradha Bhasin, journalist
Atul Sood, Professor, Economist
Battini Rao, Convenor, PADS
Bhavesh Bariya, Students Leader, Gujarat
Dev Desai, Social Activist, Anhad Gujarat
Dharam Hadvani, Student Leader, Gujarat
Dilip Simeon, historian
Dr Kush Kumar Singh, Khudai Khidmtgar
Dr. Indu Prakash Singh, President, Forum against Corruption & Threats (FACT)
Dr. Javed Malick, Academic
Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre
Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmtgar
Fr. Cedric Prakash, Human Rights Defender, Gujarat
Gauhar Raza, Scientist, Poet
Harsh Kapoor, Independent Researcher
Irfan Engineer, Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
Joe Athialy, social activist
Joy Sengupta, Actor
Kamal Chenoy, academic
Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA
Kripal Singh Mandloi, Khudai Khidmtgar
Leena Dabiru, Social Activist
Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
Mahesh Pandya, Gujarat Social Watch
Mariam Dhawale, General Secretary, AIDWA
Mario Noronha, Secretary, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
MMP Singh, retired academic
Nandini Rao, feminist activist
Nandini Sundar, Sociologist, Delhi
Nandita Narain, former President DUTA and FEDCUTA
Navsharan Singh, social activist
ND Jayaprakash, social activist
Noorjahan Diwan, Social Activist, Anhad , Gujarat
Pamela Philipose, journalist
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, journalist
Prabir Purkayastha, Editor, Newsclick
Prof Chaman Lal
Prof Prabhat Patnaik, economist
Prof. Hemant Shah, Economist, Gujarat
Prof. Mansi Shah, CEPT University
Prof. Navdeep Mathur, IIM Ahmedabad
Pushkar Raj, PUCL
Rakhi Sehgal, Labour Researcher and Activist
Rekha Awasthi, academic
Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad
Shashwati Mazumdar, academic
Sohail Hashmi, historian, filmmaker
Sukumar Muralidharan, journalist
Tarun Sagar, Social Worker, Anhad
Utpal Kant Anis, PhD Scholar Gujarat
Vijayan MJ, Pakistan India Peoples' Forum for Peace & Democracy (India Chapter)
Vipin Tripathi, Sadbhav Mission
Wilfred Dcosta, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF