Sunday, April 6, 2008

Activists speak up against draconian Acts

NEW DELHI: Castigating the Chhattisgarh government for continuing with the draconian Special Security Act, Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy on Saturday said the Act was being misused to ban organisations and put people in the lock-up.

Speaking at a convention on “Special Security Legislations and the Making of a Police State” at the Gandhi Peace Foundation here, Ms. Roy said: “Six hundred and forty villages have been emptied in the State and the villagers have been living in police camps. The State government has the powers to ban any organisation without giving any reason.”

Under the Special Security Act, the government had the power to pick a Gandhian, a doctor, a journalist or a writer and put them in the lock-up, Ms. Roy claimed. The Chhattisgarh government feels that without this law it cannot implement its development programme.

“If we speak against the Special Security Act, then the government can put the same extraordinary clauses in some other Act.”

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that under the pretext of arresting naxalites and Maoists, the government was arresting people working in peaceful organisations.

“The government has just one agenda — of increasing the Gross Domestic Product of the country even if that means handing over the control of our mines to national or multi national companies for exploiting our rich natural wealth of iron ore and bauxite. But the royalty paid to the government is the same as it was 40 years ago.”

Abject poverty

Noted journalist Praful Bidwai said that before the tribal State of Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh, the tribals were controlling the State’s rich mineral wealth. But now they were living in abject poverty.

“In South Bastar there is appalling poverty, sharp increase in infant mortality rate and retrograde steps like closing down of schools are being carried out. The Communist Party of India and other progressive organisations had recently mobilised 1.5 lakh people at Bastar, but it had no effect on the State government. There were more assaults on fundamental rights to perpetuate a regime of extracting capitalism.”

According to the convener of the Forum for Democratic Initiatives, Radhika Menon, the United Progressive Alliance government had declared in 2004 that the much-misused and dreaded Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was on its way out. “However, four years hence, people continue to be tried under the POTA as it was not retrospectively repealed and those booked continue to prove their innocence under provisions that puts the onus on them to prove their innocence.”

AFSPA condemned

Speakers from Manipur condemned the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the Northeast.

Later, in a resolution, the participants condemned the draconian provisions of the Special Security Act, POTA and TADA that militate against the fundamental rights and demanded the release of human rights activists and journalists detained by various State governments.

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