Modi govt's own data indicates that draconian provisions of UAPA are being used to stifle dissent
Surprisingly, the largest number of people arrested under UAPA was from Uttar Pradesh with 361 arrests, followed by J&K with 346 and Manipur with 225 arrests
The fear has now become reality. The amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) enabling the State to declare a person a ‘terrorist’ even without any connection with a terrorist organization is being rampantly misused across the country.
It is shocking that persons who are exposing State terror even before the United Nations Human Rights body are also being booked as terrorist, apart from those who voice their dissent against government policies and actions.
The misuse of the amended UAPA is not only rampant in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under the shadow of terrorism since 1989, but also across the country, as revealed in the Rajya Sabha in a written reply by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai. It said that as many as 4,690 people were arrested in different parts of the country under the stringent anti-terror law, UAPA, in the past three years, and 149 of them got convicted.
The data itself proves that very large number of people were languishing in jails on charges of terror, and the government was not able to speedily provide conclusive proofs against them, thereby causing delay in judgements. It is either due to the dismal performance of the investigating agencies, or there is nothing against them except government vendetta for exposing State terror against its own people or their misrule through ‘policies and actions’.
The reply of the Minister also contains a defense of the government’s dismal performance regarding a very low level of conviction. It says that “the conviction is an outcome of an elaborate judicial process and is dependent on various factors, such as duration of the trial, appraisal of evidences, and examination of witness".
“There are adequate constitutional and statutory safeguards, including in the UAPA, to prevent misuse of the law,” it added.
It was surprising that the largest number of people arrested under UAPA was from Uttar Pradesh with 361 arrests, which was followed by Jammu and Kashmir with 346 and Manipur with 225 arrests. These three states account for 70 per cent of total arrests under UAPA.
If the data is true, we will have to consider Uttar Pradesh to be the most terrorist-infested state which is ruled by no other political party but the BJP. Jammu and Kashmir is also under the rule of the BJP-led Union government, and the government in Manipur is also led by the BJP. It clearly implies that the BJP governments are ‘using’ or ‘misusing’ the provisions of UAPA against real terrorists or adversaries.
The Modi government and also the BJP may claim that they have been intolerant towards the ‘terrorists’. No one will have any objection to the claim on its face value, but they will have to accept that Uttar Pradesh accounts for the largest number of 'terrorists' in India from where they have arrested the largest number of them.
Even as the Minister revealed the preceding data in Rajya Sabha, a group of independent UN human rights experts brought up the case of the human rights defender Khurram Parvez’s arrest under UAPA, ostensibly because he had documented serious human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings and shared the information with the United Nations.
The UN experts said, “We regret that the government continues to use UAPA to restrict fundamental freedoms in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir”.
Parvez was arrested on November 22 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges related to conspiracy and terrorism.
“We are concerned that one month after Mr Parvez’s arrest, he is still deprived of liberty in what appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations,” the rights experts said.
Parvez is detained at the Rohini Jail Complex in Delhi, which the experts described as among the most overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in the country, posing an immediate risk to his health and safety, in particular from COVID-19. The threat to his life cannot be disregarded because India has seen several deaths of the accused in jails in recent times. In all probability, his detention may be extended for a further 90 days.
The July 2019 amendment to UAPA gives unbridled power to the State to designate anyone as a terrorist without the requirement of establishing membership or association with banned or declared terrorist organizations.
The UN rights experts have categorically said that UAPA has resulted in a “worrisome rise” in the number of arrests in India. “We regret that the government continues to use the UAPA as a means of coercion to restrict civil society’s, the media’s and human rights defenders’ fundamental freedoms in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the rest of the country,” they said.
Incidentally, the use of the term ‘Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir’ would probably give the government a ground to reject the charge by the UN experts.
Views are personal