People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)
Letters to Editor
Subject: FIR against Danish Books under UAPA
Hindustan Times 24.10.06
This is to draw your attention to the registering of an FIR under Sec. 18 (punishment for conspiracy and knowingly facilitating the commission of terrorist acts etc.) of the Unlawful Activites (Prevention) Amendment Act [UAPA], 2004 against Ms. Sunita of Danish Books by the Chandrapur police on 15 Oct.. The reason behind the arrest was the display of books dealing with Left ideology and communist movements at her stall, at an event to observe Babsaheb Ambedkar’s mass conversions to Buddhism on Deeksha Day. Thirteen books were seized by the police. These include translations of reknowned works by Clara Zetkin, B.D. Sharma, Che Guevara, Li Onesto, and Baburam Bhattarai among other progressive and leftist literature.
The connection between the public sale and display of books, and the committing of acts of violence threatening the sovereignity of India, or at striking terror in people (the general definition of “terrorist acts” under UAPA) is farfetched and absurd. By this logic not just publishers and booksellers, but also journalists, teachers, researchers, activists, lawyers, students, librarians, or simply readers and buyers of such literature can be charged and imprisoned.The absurdity of the charge in fact indicates the absolute impunity with which the police can act, and harass people.
The case is a direct attack on the constitutional right of freedom of expression and indicates a shrinkage of the public sphere under an increasingly authoritarian regime. The ire of the police being directed at books dealing with political ideas inimical to the present regime, indicates a curtailment of the political freedoms of dissemination of information, and free exchange of ideas and beliefs so integral to a democracy.
The scope of punishment under sec. 18 (punishment for conspiracy etc.)of Ch IV of the UAPA under which Sunita is charged, extends to the commission of “any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act”. This vagueness of definition is extremely dangerous as it gives the state complete authority to criminalise any activity it wishes to proscribe, and punish any person it finds inconvenient. The intent behind a law like the UAPA, to suppress political opposition and curtailing democratic freedoms, is slowly but surely revealing itself.
(Secretaries, PUDR) firstname.lastname@example.org