Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi (PUDR) strongly protests the accusation by the Maharashtra police claiming that the PUDR is a frontal organisation of the CPI (Maoist) party. This is a blatant attempt to threaten and restrict the functioning of one of India’s oldest civil rights organisations.
PUDR and PUCL came into existence way back in 1977 as front-runners against the imposition of the Emergency and for the release of imprisoned people. Since that time PUDR has taken up issues of violation of peoples’ rights. The issues raised range from communal riots, and deaths and rapes in police custody, to undemocratic laws and the death penalty, from rights of organised and unorganised labour, to extrajudicial executions and caste oppression; from inter-community marriages to displacement of tribal communities. PUDR has also played a crucial role in the history of public litigation in India. It was the petitioner in the Supreme Court's landmark Asiad Judgement (1982) which gave every citizen the right to petition the Court in the case of violation of fundamental rights of any person. PUDR was also among the organisations whose court interventions initiated the payment of compensation for deaths in police custody.
Wherever PUDR fact-findings conclude that human rights are violated, PUDR publicly condemns such violations, and appeals to government authorities, approaches the judiciary or NHRC or garners public opinion to campaign against the violation. Recent campaigns taken up include the payment of legally stipulated wages and safe working conditions for the construction labour for the Commonwealth Games infrastructure. Another was to demand the repeal of the UAPA, given the gross injustices documented through its operation.
PUDR has no political or party affiliation and the same is specifically barred by its Constitution. It is a self-financing organisation subsisting through the income received from sale of its literature, membership fee, and donations raised from members from time to time. It does not receive funds from any political party, government or any institution. All fact-finding missions are financed by what is contributed by its own members. People and organisations may approach PUDR to examine instances of human rights violation but PUDR only undertakes campaigns by its own decisions and expends only what is contributed by its own members.
PUDR has unhesitatingly condemned the violation of people’s rights irrespective of the politics of the perpetrator organisation, party or group. It has repeatedly opposed the killings of civilians by the CPI (Maoist) – the Bara massacre (1992), the bomb blast in a train in Jharkhand (2009), the custodial killing of police official Francis Induwar (2009), the massacre in Jamui, Bihar (2010), the killing of the NREGA whistle-blower, Niyamat Ansari (2011), the threats to a gram sabha in Jharkhand (2011), killing of media person, Sai Reddy, in Chhattisgarh (2013), among others.
Since its inception, PUDR has opposed laws like the MISA, NSA, TADA, POTA and the UAPA and documented the damage to the individual and to society caused by such legislations. Hence PUDR protested the use of such laws against people and organisations from different political backgrounds –NSA against Mr L.K Advani in 1990, the conviction of Congress Minister, Kalpanath Rai, under TADA (1997), the arrest of Tamil leader, Vaiko under POTA (2002) and the arrest of BJP youth leader, Varun Gandhi under NSA in 2009, the ban on SIMI under the UAPA, and many others.
PUDR has channelled its efforts in favour of those who lack a voice. These include those petty offenders who are tortured, killed or raped in police custody in Delhi, or construction workers living uncertain lives on paltry wages, or unorganised workers suffering loss of life and limb with no hope of justice or compensation.
Attempts to associate human rights organisations with the politics of the victims of human rights abuse has also happened in the past. When PUDR and PUCL brought out a report on the killings of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, it received threats from the Congress Party and a smear campaign was launched to associate PUDR with support for Khalistani organisations and politics. For the record, it was the then Punjab Chief Minister that thanked our organisations for telling the facts and thus preventing a backlash against Hindus in the state.
We are aware of the dangers inherent in civil rights work when those in power wish to silence the objections against the civil rights violations emerging out of the operations of power. PUDR reaffirms its faith in reason and hopes that the institutions of our democracy shall foil this shameful attempt.
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights condemns this smear campaign undertaken by the Pune police, involving the arrest of five activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira and one of PUDR’s long-standing member Gautam Navlakha. We demand that the same be reversed without delay.
Shahana Bhattacharya and Sharmila Purkayastha
9th September 2018