PUDR strongly condemns the verdict of a lower Court in Allahabad awarding life sentence to Civil Rights activist Seema Azad and her spouse Vishvvijay on charges of sedition, waging war and under several provisions of the draconian law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Additional District Judge Sunil Kumar Singh, while pronouncing the order, also slapped a fine of approximately Rs 70,000 on the couple. The couple were arrested from Lukerganj locality in Allahabad on February 6, 2010 by the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh, which claimed that Maoist literature was recovered from their possession and that they were associated with a banned organization, the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Their arrests were made by the Special Task Force, but the case was later handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad of UP making it a case involving terrorist activity.
Seema Azad’s incarceration and sentence is a clear case of silencing dissident voices. Her arrest followed Seema’s active chronicle of people’s movement. She was actively associated with women’s liberation front till 2001 and with the revolutionary students’ movement till 2004. Seema is also an active member of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh. Furthering her concern towards violation of people’s rights she brought out a new magazine, Dastak, which carried out a thorough investigation of the Ganga Expressway plan which threatened to displace thousands of farmers. She published the findings of her survey in form of a booklet and distributed copies. Dastak also published a long report on the arbitrary arrests and torture of Muslim youth in Azamgarh. Seema’s arrest came in the wake of the growing efforts to sensitize people of violation of their rights and other concerns relating to human rights. Seema and Vishvvijay’s arrests were a move to crush such efforts on the pretext of containing efforts of incitement against the government. Following the detention, bail petitions were presented in court many a times. Each time the petition was rejected for Seema’s ‘dangerousness’ to the status quo constructing a civil rights activist into a naxal. Seema’s conviction is one of the many cases where proscription under UAPA shows its true colours. By banning an organisation as "terrorist" and thereby banning even its literature, it becomes possible for authorities to target anyone by accusing that person of having links with a banned organisation. Thus legitimate activities become unlawful and therefore offensive.
PUDR staunchly denounces the judgement as being representative of the efforts of the government to squash critical voices and extends support to the cause taken up by activists such as Seema Azad.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan