Rights

'Invocation of Sedition Laws, UAPA Against CAA Protesters Illegal,' Say Activists

'We demand that the Union government stop this harassment, and Delhi Police immediately withdraw these charges.'

New Delhi: Activists under the banner of Hum Bharat Ke Log, a platform of more than 100 civil society organisations in the movement against the NPR, NRC and CAA, have issued a statement, strongly condemning the arrests and intimidation to which protesters are being subjected to.

Calling the Delhi Police’s charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against former JNU scholar Umar Khalid and Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar targeted moves by the Centre, the statement says the action is “inherently illegal.”

On April 21, Delhi Police booked Khalid, Haider and Zargar under the UAPA for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to incite the communal riots in February.

“We must remember that the protesters against NPR, NRC and CAA acted in accordance with their fundamental rights as conferred by the Constitution of India and hence the invocation of UAPA and the colonial Sedition laws are inherently illegal. This amounts to wrongful exercise of authority against lawful acts of citizens,” the statement says.

Also read: ‘Terrorism’ Charge a Lesson for Jamia Students that Democratic Protest Carries Heavy Cost

It has been signed by prominent activists and political participants, Anjali Bhardwaj, Avik Saha, Fahad Ahmad, Farah Naqvi, Ganesh Devy, Harsh Mander, Kamayani Swami, Kavita Krishnan, Kiran Vissa, Lara Jesani, Madhuri Krishnaswamy, Meera Sanghamithra, Nadeem Khan, Teesta Setalvad and Yogendra Yadav.

“It is clear that the government is trying to intimidate the leading anti-NPR/NRC/CAA protesters in an attempt to crush the movement, forgetting that India is the land of Gandhi where satyagraha is still alive,” the statement says.

It also highlights the circumstances under which such action is being taken.

“It is shocking to see that while the whole nation has come together to deal with the the health emergency caused by COVID-19 and the consequent nationwide lockdown, the government, instead of focusing on saving lives and livelihoods of citizens, is conspiring to crush peoples movements by incarcerating activists,” it notes, adding that this is reflective of a tendency to consolidate authoritarian power in the hands of a few.

The signatories also make three demands:

  1. The Delhi Police must clarify whether and on what grounds have these activists been charged under UAPA.”
  2. If so, such ridiculous and draconian charges, clearly meant to intimidate activists and quell dissent, be immediately removed,
  3. Those who were actually responsible for issuing communally charged statements, leading to violence and huge loss of human lives must be held accountable and punished as per law.

Asking the Union government to “stop the harassment,” the statement also asks media to deliver the truth on the matter.

“At a time of such grave abuse of state power, we call on every citizen and every political party to stand together to protect our democracy. We ask the media to stand for the truth. We demand that the Union government stop this harassment, and Delhi Police immediately withdraw these charges against peaceful and democratic dissenters,” it says.