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Friday, November 26 2021

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UAPA: A march towards puppetry

Incident 1: Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit leader aged 84, breathed his last in prison on July,l 5, 2021 being alleged and imprisoned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act( UAPA). He was a social activist and was arrested for his alleged involvement ‘in Bhima Koregaon’ violence.

Incident 2: Siddique Kapppan, a Kerala based journalist on his way to report Hathras rape cum murder case on October 7, 2020 was arrested and charged under same draconian UAPA.

Unlawful activities Prevention Act or UAPA initially meant to counter the cession of territories. In the year 2004, the term ‘terrorist activity’ was added under the law through which an organisation could be banned for its involvement in terrorist activity but what exactly comes under the ambit of terrorist activity went undefined. In the year 2019, Government obtained yet another provision of designating an individual to be a terrorist through the Act causing a life threatening caution on government dissenters in the country.

Hathras; a rape cum murder case was complicated, with the police voluntarily performing the final rituals of the victim without the consent of the family and when, a journalist Siddique Kappan along three others were arrested on their way to report the issue, a huge question and doubt on utilising the law on the grounds of ideological and political differences arised. Siddique Kappan is still under imprisonment for committing the grave mistake of following his professional duty.

The arrest and the subsequent treatment made to Father Stan Swamy is no less than utilising UAPA as a weapon against the dissenters of the Government. In a video that went viral two days prior to the arrest of Stan Swamy, it was found him stating: What is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone. It is a broader process that is taking place all over the country. We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, students, and leaders are all put into jail because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India. We are part of the process. In a way I am happy to be part of this process. I am not a silent spectator, but part of the game, and ready to pay the price whatever be it.

Stan Swamy being a social activist who fought for tribal rights, reaped the taste of imprisonment and breathed his last in jail. When a 84-year-old Parkinson patient Stan Swamy was rejected a straw-sipper to consume liquid in jail, court suo moto took up the issue of controversial  TV anchor, Arnab Goswami and granted him bail stating to protect the liberty of an individual.

Undefined term “Terrorist activities’ used in the law opens path for misuse and vague usage of the law in order to protect the personal interest of ruling class rather than acting as a check on the actual need. Motive filled misuse of UAPA is been and will put several lives and future of citizens in threat further. It is also a step towards an autocracy in the democracy. The law which is considered to be antithetical to constitutional freedom of dissent, rule of law and fair trial have seen nearly 72% rise in the arrest made. As per Ministry of Home Affairs, compared to 2015, the year 2019 has seen a rise of 72%.

Respecting the Freedom of Speech and Expression and the Right to Dissent provided under Article 19 of the Constitution, there  is a need for every ideology that comes to power to be ‘open’ towards all forms of criticism. The right to dissent in an optimistic way, is an opportunity for the one being dissented to evolve and change. And so, we see a need for a greater transparency under the ambit of existing law. If no, then soon future India will have to see its citizens act like a puppet which has no power except for its masters moves.

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon 

Sumayya Parveen A.

Sumayya is a Journalism, Eng. Literature and History Graduate & IAS Aspirant. She is also a budding writer and poetess.

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