By M Reyaz, TwoCircles.net,
New Delhi: The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) today released its report on cases of ‘Guilt by Association’ on the arbitrary detentions under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) from Madhya Pradesh. The release of report was followed with the screening of the documentary film Fabricated, based on the case of Abdul Nasser Maudany.
Despite the fact that there has been no incidents of terror attacks in the state, the number of cases in which the accused were charged with furthering the activities of an unlawful association under UAPA is fairly high. Cases are registered against former Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) members, their friends and acquaintances – and sometimes people with no links to either SIMI when it was a lawful association, or any of its former members – in police stations in Indore, Seoni, Khandwa, Bhopal, Burhanpur, Ujjain, Neemuch, Guna etc, practically the entire state.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, Wajahat Habibullah, NCM Chairperson, Dr Binayak Sen and members of JTSA releasing the report.
Speaking on the occasion civil rights activist, public health specialist and national Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said that unfortunately Muslim youths and association to the banned SIMI is just one example of abuses of draconian laws by the state machinery. Dr Sen was himself unfairly arrested and tried under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 for alleged link with Maoists. He was convicted in 2010 was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by Raipur Sessions Court, Chhattisgarh for sedition and helping Naxalites on fabricated evidence, but granted bail by the Apex Court in April 2011.
Dr Sen added that the security forces, in collusion with a section of the judiciary, demonise on the basis of ascribed identities, be it minority, dalits or Naxalities.
Dr Binayak Sen speaking at the release of the JTSA report in Jamia.
Speaking earlier Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, spoke on the seriousness of the matter and assured that the NCM will take up the matter with the concerned authorities. He said, “UAPA is not a very sound law and it gives too much authority to the police.”
Habibullah appreciated the work of the JTSA and coming with a comprehensive report, which would “enable us to take matter with authorities.” He, however, advised the community to refrain from falling into a sense of victim-hood as the Muslims do not exclusively suffer, but all the deprived communities are made to suffer. He urged them to take advantages of bodies like NCM, besides National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Women (NCW) and engage with them in constructive ways.
Habibullah also lauded the works of the comrades and good Samaritans like Manisha Sethi, Advocate Vrinda Grover, Advocate Ashok Agarwal, journalist Ashish Khetan and others who struggle to “defend the fundamental rights and liberties of fellow citizens.”
NCM Chairperson Wajahat Habibullah speaking at the release of JTSA report ‘Guilt by Association.’
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who contested the ban on SIMI in two earlier tribunals, and was instrumental in the preparation of this report, said that confessional statements made to the police are not acceptable in the court of law, but notes prepared on their basis have been one main reason behind continuation of ban on SIMI by the Home Ministry.
The JTSA report also questions the dubious ‘judicial abdication’ in allowing this witch-hunt by ignoring violation of procedural norms by the police, by lowering the burden of proof, by overlooking the fact the incriminating literature predates the ban on the organization, and by ignoring the obvious contradictions, to hand out conviction after conviction.
Advocate Agarwal, lawyer with over thirty years of experiences, said that there is history to abuses of draconian laws like TADA, POTA or the powers given under unlawful activities law and there is pattern from the Khalistan insurgency movement to Kashmir to cases of Muslim detentions or anti-Naxal operations, where individuals have been detained and falsely charged with malicious intentions.
Advocate Agarwal alleged that by a possible collusion between “judicial abdication and Executive mala fide (intentions) and indifferences” has given the security agencies free hand, who illegally detain, torture, fabricate evidence that leads to ‘punishment by process,’ where even if the cases are fabricates, sometimes the accused spends years in jail as under trial, and even the basic fundamental rights are taken away without any due process of law.
He said that if confessional statements are removed, there is hardly any case in most of the instances. Pointing to the ban on SIMI, he said that an appeal against the ban in pending in the Supreme Court since 2002 without any known reason.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal speaking at the release of the JTSA report.
Earlier Dr. Manisha Sethi, President of the JTSA, while introducing the report and putting forth its content said that it documents the cases of from 2001 till date, adding that this is the time where not a single case of violent nature or terror incident happened, and yet large number of cases have been registered across the state, with an agenda of demonizing a particular community. He said that the way similar evidence and records have been put forth it appears as if “”UAPA is working like Osmosis and keeps transferring from one place to another.”
Advocate Rebecca M John, who is also fighting several cases of Muslim youths detained, elaborated and gave examples of how due processes are not followed and youths are made to suffer through lax legal and judicial system.
The release of report was followed with the screening of the documentary film Fabricated, based on the case of Abdul Nasser Maudany. After the screening, film’s director KP Sasi enaged with the audience on freewheeling discussion on the scourge of falsely implicating activists, political opponents, and fighters for peoples’ causes wantonly by the State.
The current JTSA report has documented 77 cases from MP and they are working on preparing a comprehensive all-India report. The report illustrates why the short cut methods of special or fast track courts, currently under discussion even in the Home Ministry, will not help as the malaise is deeper and more fundamental.
“The existence of laws like UAPA, which render entire communities perpetually suspect, make malicious and biased investigation that much easier,” a statement by the JTSA noted. JTSA hopes that the document will strengthen the demand for the repeal of this draconian laws, which according to them is “no less unjust than the earlier POTA and TADA.”
Passed in 1967, and amended repeatedly, in 1972, 2004, 2008, and yet again in 2012, the anti-terror legislation, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), grants the Centre the power to declare an association as “unlawful” if it is seen as a threat or a potential threat to the country’s “sovereignty and integrity”, or is seen as promoting “enmity between different groups” or for “imputations prejudicial to national integration”.
Manisha Sethi speaking while Advocate Ashok Agarwal is sitting
Though there is no all-India audit yet of UAPA cases, more and more evidence is surfacing about the extensive abuse of anti-terror laws in targeting minorities, tribals, deprived sections as well as political activists. UAPA seems to be following the trajectory of earlier anti-terror laws such as POTA and TADA, which were documented to have been used extensively to target minorities (among others).
At the heart of the UAPA legislation are two issues: membership (of unlawful organizations) and conspiracy (of furthering the activities of the unlawful organization). Both, membership to an organization that no longer exists legally, and nebulous charges of furthering the activities of such an organization are notoriously difficult to pin down. In most cases, the only ‘proof’ that the investigating agency is able to demonstrate is to associate the accused to a proscribed organization and his or her participation in unlawful acts is inferred through the alleged recovery of banned and seditious literature from the custody of the accused.
About JTSA: Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (originally Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group) is a collective of university teachers, formed in the aftermath of the Batla House ‘encounter’ in 2008. Though initially focusing on the demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’, JTSA has emerged as an important voice arguing for rule of law, and against illegal detentions, encounter killings, and communal witch hunts by anti-terror agencies.
JTSA conducts fact-findings, investigations, publishes reports, engages in legal aid work as well as collaborates with a range of civil society groups on issues of democracy, justice and civil rights. This is the third in the series of JTSA reports, the earlier two being “The Case that Never Was : The SIMI Trial of Jaipur (2012)” and “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a ‘Very’ Special Cell.”
JTSA is a non-funded organization which depends on the goodwill, support of all democratic and progressive forces and individuals who would like to see our work to go on.