Activists protest ‘draconian’ UAPA

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Members of organisations like Kabir Kala Manch join natl movement against Act that they claim has made several of their peers suffer wrongfully.alt

Coming out in droves to protest draconian laws that they say have led to unfair incarcerations, members of organisations like the Kabir Kala Manch, Rights and Justice Forum and Popular Front of India participated in a candle-lit protest at Shaniwarwada on Friday evening, particularly to raise a voice against the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA), which they claim many of their peers have suffered under.

The protest came under a part of the People’s Movement Against UAPA, a campaign designed in New Delhi that has been joined by activists like John Dayal, Suresh Khairnar, Teesta Setalvad and Mahmood Madani.

Following several terror attacks in the country, UAPA has been amended thrice — in 2004, 2008, 2012 — which activists say served to make it even more “draconian”. Participants in Friday’s march had their own stories of horror about when they were charged under the Act.

Jyoti Chorge, a Kabir Kala Manch member who was charged in 2011 for allegedly spreading Maoist ideologies in urban areas, told Mirror, “This is a very draconian act — firstly, a person charged under it does not get bail for very long. I faced many problems when my parents were asked to report to police stations at the whim and mercy of cops, and harrassed with unnnecessary questions.”

Chorge, who has studied till Class 12 and has a diploma in Electrical Technology, lamented, “I cannot even study further, because all my certificates are with the Anti-Terrorism Squad.”

Another member of the Manch charged under the same Act, 27-year-old Sidharth Bhosale, said, “This Act is similar to the Prevention Of Terrorism Activities Act 2002 (POTA) — it ruins lives. As ‘anti-national elements’, we will always be viewed with suspicion at any work or other place we go to.”

Sadiq Qureshi, a member of the Popular Front of India, said, “Baseless charges are levied against Muslims, Aadivasis and Dalits under this Act. The national movement against UAPA has been started to abolish charges against innocent youth.”

Balkrishna Sawant, president of the Right and Justice Forum, said, “Several fake cases have been filed against youth from specific communities under this Act, calling them ‘naxalites’ and ‘terrorists’ without evidence.

While the Supreme Court and sundry High Courts have given maximum acquittals in cases under this Act, by the time such a case reaches a higher court from lower ones, anyone charged under it will have remained in jail for 5-10 years without having actually committed a crime.”

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