More than 25 Left, youth, Dalit and human rights organisations in Tamil Nadu formed human chains on the International Day of Democracy on Wednesday to protest the illegal detention of intellectuals and activists, including in the Bhima-Koregaon case, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.
The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication front (TNUEF) and the other participating organisations criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for muzzling the voice of the activists by using laws similar to those enacted by the British.
The organisations demanded the release of the 15 activists jailed under the UAPA, including Anand Teltumbde, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha. Father Stan Swamy, who was also arrested under the UAPA in the Elgar Parishad case, passed away at a Mumbai hospital while waiting for bail on July 5.
Teltumbde’s wife Rama Ambedkar thanked TNUEF for forming the human chains in support of the detainees. The family members and friends of BK-16—the group comprising academics, lawyers, journalists and others—also wished the best to the protesters.
DENYING LEGAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The protesters said that the denial of bail to sick detainees when the pandemic was spreading fast across the country shows the dictatorial attitude of the BJP government. Samuvel Raj, general secretary, TNUEF said, “The detainees are being framed for speaking up against the ruling dispensation and standing together with the oppressed, including the scheduled castes and tribal people. The BJP is afraid of the writings of these intellectuals and has framed them on false charges.”
Human chain in Tiruchengode
Referring to Swamy’s death, Raj said that the “government felt threatened by an 84-year-old man severely affected by Parkinson’s. They even denied a straw he needed to sip water. All the 15 detainees face an uncertain future thanks to the dictatorial attitude of the BJP and the illegal use of the UAPA”.
TNUEF accused the BJP government of planting evidence in the electronic devices of the detainees. “The forensic report of Arsenal Consulting has proved that the evidence was planted in the laptop of Rona Wilson, leading to the arrest of 15 others. Even after this revelation, the BJP government has denied bail to the detainees,” Raj said.
M Veerapandian, senior leader of Communist Party of India (CPI), Tamil Nadu unit, accused the BJP of framing conspiracy cases against the social activists. “The BJP with its brute majority is posing a threat to parliamentary democracy. The BJP is branding intellectuals as urban Naxals because they support people affected by the pro-corporate policies of the BJP government. The human chain not only demands the release of the detainees but also to rescue India from the clutches of the BJP.”
THREAT TO FEDERALISM
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA), 2019 grants permission to a National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer to obtain the consent of the NIA’s DGP thus bypassing the state DGP. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) said that this provision is a threat to federalism.
“September 15 is also the birth anniversary of late chief minister CN Annadurai, who was a strong advocate of federalism. The provisions of the UAPA totally breache the rights of the states,” said Vanni Arasu, deputy general secretary, VCK.
The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) accused the BJP government of using laws used during British rule. “Sedition cases were slapped on freedom fighters. The BJP is using similar colonial laws to silence dissent,” said V Bala, state secretary, DYFI, Tamil Nadu.