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India

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act designed for Intimidating Opponents

Statement by Human Rights and Civil Liberties Groups

The recent alert regarding use of Section 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), issued by the gov­ernment in so-called "public interest", has brought into 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 with regard to Operation Green Hunt. The statement criminalises 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 content of the circular shows a complete disregard of the concerns ex­pressed by the 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 that are of crucial importance for the country. We further condemn the government for targeting political and civil rights groups who are carrying out their democratic responsibility of ensur­ing equal protection of the Constitution to all sections of society.

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)

Organisation 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)