Open Letter: Indian Govt Using Draconian Laws to Suppress Dissent and Arrest Citizens

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Photo: BJP (file photo)
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Photo: BJP (file photo)

By RMN News Service

As lawlessness and criminal activities are increasing in India under the government headed by PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, a group of 99 former civil servants (including IAS and IPS officers) has raised deep concern.

In an open letter, they have expressed their displeasure at the assault on the Rule of Law in India and on its citizens’ rights to free speech and dissent, which are the basic elements of any democracy.

These signatories to the letter are particularly concerned about the violation of rights to Freedom of Speech & Expression, Freedom of Assembly, etc., guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution.

The letter states that the police establishments across the country appear to have become proxies for the respective ruling parties and there is flagrant misuse of draconian laws of sedition and the Unauthorized Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

It adds that the misuse of these laws by the government has led to the arrest of journalists, intellectuals, university students, film-makers, human rights activists, and others who dared to criticize the present regime.

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“Any criticism of government is considered ‘anti-national’ and invites punitive wrath. The law of sedition, itself a colonial relic, is resorted to by a succession of governments, but its application has sharply increased. From 2016 to 2018, 332 persons were arrested under this law but only 7 convicted, exposing the absence of evidence and exercise of vendetta,” the letter states.

According to the letter, the recent attacks on students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Jamia Milia Islamia choked the rights of students and faculty to voice their criticism of the existing state of affairs, including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) introduced by the Modi government.

The letter also informs that the coronavirus pandemic has been an excuse for curbing freedom of speech across States. It cites a report of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group which reveals that 55 journalists were singled out for writing on the mishandling of the Covid situation: threats, FIRs, assaults, and arrests were amongst the intimidating tactics used by the government.

The detentions in Kashmir of hundreds of political activists and the suspension of communications for several months after the revocation of its special status is a blot on India’s democracy, the letter says.

Finally, according to the letter, the investigations into the February riots in northeast Delhi have betrayed an institutional bias against the minority community and the UAPA has been used against activists who opposed the CAA through peaceful protest.

The letter says that social activists like Harsh Mander and Yogendra Yadav have been named in charge sheets even though they are not amongst the accused. Meanwhile, according to the letter, Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, BJP leader and Minister respectively, who had openly called for violence, face no action.

The letter urges all Indians to unite in defence of the Rule of Law and Article 19, the repository of the democratic right to freedom of speech and to dissent. You can click here to read the full July 4 letter along with the names of signatories.

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Rakesh Raman