Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the unconstitutional and undemocratic act of the Central Government in detaining Anna Hazare and his supporters in the early hours of 16th August, who were scheduled to arrive at the site of peaceful demonstration. PUDR considers the conditions laid down by the government such as number of participants allowed, timing of the demonstrations etc. to be authoritarian. PUDR is concerned that this clampdown on democratic rights represents the shrinking democratic space in the country where S. 144 of CRPC is used to prevent citizens from lodging their disapproval of government policies and actions.
PUDR is of the opinion that irrespective of politics they espouse, individuals and organisations have the legitimate right to mobilise people and stage protest against the government policies which they dislike or oppose. In the specific instance of the Lokpal bill there maybe sharp disagreement over the various versions of the bill in the public domain from a variety of vantage points. We are mindful of the fact that two most talked about bills namely the government version and Anna Hazare’s team version have been subjected to public criticism for a variety of reasons. However, for the government to claim that once the matter is placed before the parliament there is no cause for public protest smacks of government being innocent of constitution they have sworn to protect. We wish to remind the central government that neither they nor the parliament can take away people’s inalienable rights under the spurious plea that once people elect their representatives right to protest by citizens gets curtailed.
PUDR is also concerned that it is the Central Government, which by taking recourse to undemocratic means, is further alienating people and compelling them, to either become mute witness to government-bureaucracy-corporations nexus in loot and plunder of the public funds, or to take recourse to violent means of protest.
PUDR, therefore, calls upon people to oppose the government stand on clamping down on legitimate protests and question government's right to decide what is permissible and what is not, so long as protests are peaceful.
Paramjeet Singh and Harish Dhawan