Posts Tagged ‘POTA’

Indian Rightist leader L. K. Advani

April 16, 2009

By Badri Raina | ZNet, Apri 16, 2009

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page


I

India’s oldest political formation, the Indian National Congress, dates back formally to 1885, a fact that the gauche Narendra Modi has recently scoffed at in his typical lumpen oratory.

It would hardly help to remind him, bruisingly bratish as he is in his paunchy middle age, that he exists in a free India thanks to the fact first that the Congress did start as early as it did. After all, the RSS of which he is such a poster boy, happened only in 1924—and happened chiefly to stymie the freedom movement led by Gandhi and the Congress.

As to L.K.Advani, the 82 year old aspirant to prime ministership on behalf of the right-wing Hindu BJP, his blood-soaked career may be said to be only as young as some two decades, marked forever by the fascist putsch on Ayodhya, the demolition of a four-hundred year old mosque as he stood on site, and the pogroms that followed in Mumbai and Gujarat.

And by his inability, as the home minister and deputy prime minister (1999-2004) to prevent several terrorist strikes, even as the draconian POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) was in place, including the strike on the parliament of India; his acquiescence in the shameful decision of allowing three first order terrorists to be escorted in a plane to Kandahar by no less than the foreign minister of the day, and by his refusal to intervene in Gujarat as Modi’s henchmen hacked the Muslims there. If anything, Modi, to whose influence Advani owes his electoral prospects in the constituency of Gandhinagar in Gujarat, remains his hero.

Interestingly, while some Congressmen raise hackles of a media friendly to the BJP for their still unproven involvement in the Delhi Sikh killings of 1984, following Indira Gandhi’s gruesome murder, the fact is never highlighted that, unlike those people, Advani is actually chargesheeted under section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, an offence that can carry a sentence of upto or more than seven years in the slammer.

And nobody who routinely complains here about the law’s delay seems to complain that the case against him remains mysteriously in limbo. Or that he should still be allowed to stand for office in the face of that chargesheet while others similarly charged are routinely hounded by the media and other high-minded sections of the Indian elite.

Incidentally, with respect to the Sikh killings in Delhi (1984) for which only the Congress party is held accountable, (that many of its satraps were involved in instigating the killings is not in doubt) it is instructive to read what Nanaji Deshmukh, that most respected of the Hindutva echelon, wrote in the Hindi Weekly, Pratipaksh, in its issue of November, 25, 1984—a Weekly then edited by no less than the redoubtable George Fernandes, defence minister of India under the NDA regime of 1999-2004.

It was his straightforward view that the killings of the Sikhs reflected a broad-based animus that India’s Hindus harboured against them. And, in his view, justly. No wonder that only the other day, Jagdish Tytler, one of the Congress leaders under suspicion, fairly or unfairly, pointed to the fact that some forty or more FIRs (first information reports with the police) still remain in place against individuals known to belong to the Hindutva camp, a feature of the 1984 killings almost never brought to public light.

II

Not heeding Modi’s diatribe against gerontocracy —just the other day he has said that the Congress Party is an 125 year old female hag and deserves to be dumped, a fine tribute to the Hindutva tradition of respect for elders and women especially that Hindus are everyday taught in RSS shakhas—Advani, even at 82 wishes to be India’s chief executive. A pathetic case of Barkis being more than willing.

A man of little empathy and even less imagination, he now gives us clinching evidence as to why his success in achieving that goal (of which thankfully there is not even a minimal prospect as of this day) could spell the end of the secular Republic of India.

In a letter addressed to some 1000 religious leaders, the bulk of them belonging to the Hindu faith, Advani, would you believe it, has asked for their “support” and ended his letter to them with a “shastang namaskar” (to wit, a prostrated obeisance).

That this is much more than merely courting religious communalism and drafting it to electoral success, is underlined by what he says subsequently: “It will be my endeavour (as prime minister of a secular Republic, mind you) to seek on a regular basis the guidance of spiritual leaders . . .on major challenges and issues facing the nation. For this we shall evolve a suitable . . . consultative mechanism” (emphasis added).

Put simply, the BJP candidate for prime ministership promises to return the secular Republic to an era when India’s kings and queens—mainly kings—always had at their royal elbow the religious authority of the dharma guru, and whose counsel on matters of war and peace would be decisive.

A sort of holy Hindu empire, if you like, with Hindu versions of the Wolseys and the Cranmers ready at hand.

That Advani should have so blatantly sought this course must suggest something of the desperation with which he seeks the high office of prime minister, even if in doing so he kicks the fundamental principles and “basic features” of the Constitution of India down the communal cauldron.

Clearly, unable during the NDA regime led by the BJP (1999-2004) to conclude a successful communal review of the Constitution (for which a high-powered Commission was indeed set up), Advani has thought it best to obtain the same result as part of campaign strategy.

It is much to be hoped that the full significance of all this registers on those well-wishers of the Republic whose life-interests tend to make them lackadaisically certain that cunningly smirking faces do not harbour intentions of the most regressive consequence to India’s hard-earned secular democracy and secular citizenship, or to the sequestration of the state from allegiance to any religion or religion-based form of legislative or administrative culture. Or, in the final analysis, of the subservience of secular governance to religious diktat.

Given the continued supremacy of the RSS over the political/electoral career of the BJP, the letter in question must seem an ominous proof of what Advani intends under RSS tutelage, namely to reformulate the nation and the state along Hindutva-theocratic principles of belief and practice.

III

It is to be seen whether or not the Election Commission of India, charged with the task of ensuring that all provisions of electoral law as codified in the Representation of People’s Act, and under the primary injunctions of the Constitution, are observed by Parties and candidates at election time, will take notice of the magnitude of offence that the Advani letter comprises.

After all, one of the first injunctions of electoral law in India is that no appeal shall be made to religion or religious authority for electoral gain. That the Advani letter should in black and white give religious leaders the “assurance” that an institutionalized “consultative mechanism” shall be put in place by him as prime minister to conduct the governance of the state in deference to their advice surely must be seen by the Election Commission for what it is: namely, not only to alter and subvert electoral laws but the state itself.

Many in India will wait to see what public reaction the Advani move will elicit, and, more particularly, what implications this will or will not have first for his candidature and then for the nature of politics in India. And whether or not Public Interest Litigation, or other legal remedies will be sought.

It will also be instructive to see how the electronic media in India deal with this unprecedented departure from Constitutional sanctity and legitimacy.


Advertisements

RIGHTS-INDIA: New Anti-Terror Laws Draconian Say Activists

December 22, 2008

Analysis by Praful Bidwai | Inter Press Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 19 (IPS) – Following the late November terror attacks in Mumbai, India has passed two tough laws being seen by rights activists as potentially eroding the country’s federal structure and limiting fundamental liberties.

Parliament — meeting under the shadow of the November 26-29 attacks on India’s commercial hub resulting in close to 200 deaths — approved the legislations on Thursday with no considered debate and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushing them past amendments tabled by several parliamentarians.

One law, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, seeks to establish a new police organisation to investigate acts of terrorism and other statutory offences.

The other, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Act, radically changes procedures for trying those accused of terrorism, extends the periods of police custody and of detention without charges, denies bail to foreigners, and the reverses the burden of proof in many instances.

Civil liberties activists and public-spirited citizens are appalled at the new laws, which they describe as draconian and excessive in relation to the measures India really needs to take to fight terrorism.

“The UAPA Act is particularly vile, and will have the effect of turning India into a virtual police state,” says Colin Gonsalves, executive director of the Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network. “It basically brings back a discredited law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002 (POTA), except for admitting confessions made to a police officer as legal evidence.”

POTA was an extremely unpopular law, which the UPA government abrogated upon coming to power in 2004 in response to innumerable complaints of its selective and discriminatory use against India’s Muslim minority, and its cavalier and irresponsible application to offences not even remotely connected with terrorism.

While rescinding POTA, the UPA kept in place all of India’s criminal laws, which are much stricter than those in many democracies.

In addition, it also enacted an amendment to the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967, which increased punishment for committing acts of terrorism and for harbouring terrorists or financing them, enhanced police powers of seizures, made communications intercepts admissible as evidence, and increased the period of detention without charges to 90 days from the existing 30 days.

However, this was not enough to please those who want a “strong” militarised state which will prevent and punish terrorism by violating the citizen’s fundamental rights, including the right to a fair trial, and not to be detained without charges.

India’s main right-wing political group, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been stridently demanding that POTA be re-enacted. Until recently, the UPA, the Left and other centrist parties stood firm in rejecting the demand despite the numerous terrorist attacks that India has suffered over the past few years.

“But now, the UPA has suddenly, and shamefully, caved in to the BJP’s demand under the pressure of elite opinion,” says Jairus Banaji, a highly regarded Mumbai-based social scientist. “The capitulation seems to be based on the UPA’s anxiety to counter the BJP’s ridiculous charge that it lacks the will to fight terrorism, and on its political calculations about the next general election due by May.”

In its desperation to be seen to be taking a tough stand against terrorism, the Manmohan Singh government also tabled the NIA Bill earlier this week. The new agency will specifically investigate offences related to atomic energy, aviation and maritime transport, weapons of mass destruction, and Left-wing extremism, besides terrorism.

Significantly, it excludes Right-wing terrorism, which has become a greater menace in India.

Unlike the existing Central Bureau of Investigation, which needs the consent of a state before investigating crimes there, the NIA will not need a state’s concurrence. This is a serious infringement of the federal system, where law and order is a state subject.

Many state governments and regional political parties have sharply criticised the Act on this count. In India, Central agencies are politically vulnerable to manipulation by New Delhi and often used to settle scores with states ruled by opposition parties.

The NIA Act also provides for special courts to try various offences. This too has drawn criticism from eminent lawyers such as Rajeev Dhavan, who argues that the potential misuse of this anti-terror legislation will now “come from both the states and the union, which can hijack the case”.

The UAPA Act contains a number of draconian clauses, and is also applicable to the entire country — unlike the Unlawful Activities Act, which was originally not extended to the strife-torn state of Jammu and Kashmir. This too has drawn protests from Kashmir-based political parties and human rights groups.

The stringent clauses cover a broad range, including a redefinition of terrorism, harsh punishment extending from five years’ imprisonment to life sentence or death, long periods of detention, and presumption of guilt in case weapons are recovered from an accused person.

The new definition now includes acts done with the intent to threaten or “likely” to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India, and offences related to radioactive or nuclear substances, and even attempts to overawe, kidnap or abduct constitutional and other functionaries that may be listed by the government. Dhavan says: “The list is potentially endless.”

Under the Act, an accused can be held in police custody for 30 days, and further detained without charges for 180 days, although courts can restrict the period to 90 days.

“This is a travesty of constitutional rights and the rule of law,” says Gonsalves. “Even worse is the presumption of guilt in case there is a recovery of arms, explosives and other substances, suspected to be involved, including fingerprints on them. The police in India routinely plants such arms and explosives, and creates a false record of recovery.”

“The very fact that offences such as organising terrorist training camps or recruiting or harbouring terrorists carry a punishment as broad as three or five years to life imprisonment shows that the government has not applied its mind to the issue,’’ Gonsalves added.

Under the Act, there is a general obligation to disclose any information that a police officer of a certain rank thinks is relevant to the investigation. Failure to disclose information can lead to imprisonment for three years. Journalists are not exempt from this.

Besides making telecommunications and e-mail intercepts admissible as evidence, the Act also denies bail to all foreign nationals, and mandates a refusal of bail to anyone if a prima facie case exists, which is decided on the basis of a First Information Report filed by the police.

POTA and its predecessor, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), were extensively abused. They typically targeted the religious minorities, specifically Muslims, and allowed for their harassment and persecution.

The TADA story is especially horrifying. Some 67,000 people were arrested under it, but only 8,000 put on trial, and a mere 725 convicted.

Official TADA Review Committees themselves found the law’s application untenable in all but 5,000 cases. In 1993, Gujarat witnessed no terrorism, but more than 19,000 people were still arrested under TADA.

Religious minorities were selectively targeted under both Acts. For instance, in Rajasthan, of 115 TADA detainees, 112 were Muslims and three Sikhs.

Gujarat had a worse pattern under POTA, when all but one of the 200-plus detainees were Muslims, the remaining one a Sikh.

The passing of the two new laws is certain to increase the alienation of India’s Muslims from the state. They have been the principal victims of India’s anti-terrorism strategy and activities in recent years.

Muslims are first to be arrested and interrogated after any terrorist incident, even when the victims are Muslims, and although strong evidence has recently emerged of a well-ramified pro-Hindu terrorist network, in which serving and retired army officers were found to be key players.

Muslims also distressed at the alacrity and haste with which the new laws were passed, especially since it contrasts with the UPA government’s failure to enact a law it promised five years ago to punish communal violence and hate crimes targeting specific religious groups.

“This will pave the way for more disaffection amongst Muslims and make the social and political climate more conducive to terrorism,” argues Gonsalves. “Even worse, it will promote excesses of the kind associated with state terrorism. And that is no way to fight sub-state terrorism.”

Fighting Terror, the Far-Right Way

September 18, 2008

by: J. Sri Raman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, Sep 17, 2008

photo
People participate in a silent candlelight march in New Delhi. (Photo: Reuters)

Newton’s Third Law of Motion now has nearly as neat a political parallel. Every non-state terror strike against human lives leads to an opposite and often more than equal state assault on human rights. The New Delhi blasts of September 13 have led to no different a sequel.

India has witnessed ten major serial explosions of this kind in the post-9/11 period, excluding the still mysterious attack on the country’s parliament on December 13, 2001, and militant offensives mainly targeting the army and security forces. The fallout of the calamity, which has become frequent and familiar, has been predictable every time. The reaction to terror-wrought tragedies, from powerful sections of the political spectrum and, particularly the far right, has been remarkably the same and twofold.

Every time, even before the blood at the site has dried and bodies are being counted, the far right and its friends – as well as even some of its avowed foes that are not free from its influence – hasten to point fingers at the usual suspects. No investigations are deemed necessary before “Islamic terror” is indicted, and the culprit is identified as “cross-border terrorism,” aided and abetted by local “sleeper cells.”

The second reaction, which follows within a split second, is to demand “more stringent anti-terror laws,” with less rights for the often arbitrarily accused than allowed under law for even a common criminal. Without severe curbs on human rights, it is asserted, inhuman terrorism cannot be combated.

The story has been repeated after the five blasts in crowded and central areas of New Delhi, claiming a toll of 22 lives so far and seriously injuring at least 98. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political front of the parivar or the far-right “family,” in fact, has outdone itself on this occasion. And for a good reason. Assembly elections are coming soon in New Delhi and other states, while the country’s general election is due in early 2009.

A couple of anti-minority riots have always been the party’s preferred method of campaigning for elections. The New Delhi explosions have given it on a platter a divisive issue of its heart’s desire.

BJP leader and former deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani surprised no one by calling immediately for a stringent “anti-terror law” again. He added two riders to the demand. He upheld, in the first place, such a law passed by the assembly in the State of Gujarat as a model for the rest of the nation. The Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill is a brainchild of Chief Minister Nerendra Modi, whose name is written in golden letters in the annals of a grateful Indian fascism, for the grisly anti-minority pogrom six years ago. Advani shared Modi’s indignation at New Delhi sitting on the bill and stalling its enactment.

Continued . . .


%d bloggers like this: