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Condemning government’s threat to use UAPA to constrain freedom of expression

07 May 2010

The most recent alert (regarding use of section 39, UAPA) issued by the government in so called ‘public interest’ has brought out in the open what had so far been implicit in its anti-Maoist policy.

The purpose of the circular is to intimidate voices of protests and dissent over government policies, particularly Operation Green Hunt. The statement criminalizes dissent and makes a mockery of the spirit of critical inquiry which is at the foundation of a strong democracy. As members of civil rights groups we consider the statement as an attack on civil society and reminiscent of the Emergency era.

The contents of the circular show complete disregard of the concerns expressed by Supreme Court when it rebuked the Chhattisgarh government for labelling human rights activists and legitimate activities as ‘sympathetic’ to ‘naxals’, or the more recent concerns expressed by the Chief Justice over the government’s war against its own people. It is not surprising that the government has also chosen to ignore the ‘sympathetic’ and undoubtedly saner voices in its own ranks, which have a different perspective on addressing the problem.

We condemn the government’s threat to use extraordinary draconian laws such as UAPA to constrain freedom of expression and free and informed debate on issues which are of crucial importance for the country. We further condemn the government for targeting political and civil rights groups who are doing no more than carrying out their democratic responsibility of ensuring equal protection of the Constitution to all sections of society.

Signed by:
Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab); Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC, Andhra Pradesh); Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Nagpur); Coordination of Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Campaign for Peace and Democracy in Manipur (CPDM, Delhi); Human Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra Pradesh); Lokshahi Hak Sangathana (LHS, Maharashtra); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra Pradesh); People’s Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); People’s Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL, National); PUCL (Chhattisgarh); PUCL (Jharkhand); PUCL (Nagpur); PUCL (Rajasthan); People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); People’s Union for Human Rights (PUHR, Haryana)