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TRUTH   JUSTICE   FREEDOM

IN THE NAME OF THE LAW - MANY THOUSANDS WERE IMPRISONED, TORTURED, RAPED AND MURDERED. BLACKMAIL WAS USED TO ILLICIT MONEY FROM VICTIM'S FAMILIES. ALL THIS HAPPENED UNDER THE ACTS OF TADA, POTA AND NOW...UAPA 

Last week in the Talkatora Stadium New Delhi, about 5000 participants drawn from different parts of India assembled to voice their protest against the unlawful law - UAPA. They demanded its early repeal and sought a commitment from political parties before the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. Those who spoke at the Conference reminded everyone that the basic reason for the continued arbitrary arrests and torture of innocents, is the legal sanction contained in UAPA.

It is evident that unless and until this law is withdrawn, the lamentable stories of jailed innocents will continue. This law is widely used against innocent people mostly hailing from marginalized Tribal, Dalit, Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities and they are languishing in different jails in India under UAPA without even getting statutory bail. Even people involved in raising legitimate protest and democratic resistance from marginalized sections and the working classes are targeted under this draconian act.

It is worth noting that in 1985, the TADA Act was introduced and used to suppress anyone who raised a voice against the Indian State’s actions specifically in Punjab. The Act gave wide powers to law enforcement agencies for dealing with so called terrorists and 'socially disruptive' activities in the following ways;

• An accused person could be detained for up to 1 year
• Confessions made to police officers were admissible as evidence in the court of law
• Secret Courts were set up exclusively, to hear the cases and deliver judgments
• A person could be detained under this act on the mere suspicion, that an individual might perform act not in the national interest.

TADA effectively gave the Police, powers to accuse anyone without evidence, to be an enemy of the state. In India, where the police are known for their corruption and inability, the outcome of TADA was predictable and brutal, yet the politicians enthusiastically endorsed it. In the decade that the Act was in force, the Punjab Police imprisoned, tortured and used blackmail to illicit money from victims and their families. The fact that their actions could not be questioned under this Act, further emboldened them to rape and murder large numbers of Sikhs in the Punjab. The Act was scrapped in 1995 but many Sikhs charged under the Act still remain in prison today.

Next, India introduced the POTA Act in 2002. The same provisions as the TADA Act applied and once the Act became law, many reports surfaced of the law being grossly abused and arbitrarily used to crack down political opponents. It was eventually scrapped in 2004. Both TADA and POTA were withdrawn when people stood up and acted against the severe and drastic abuses under those laws.

In the same year that POTA ended, the UAPA Act 2004 was introduced. This was a re-run of the original UAPA Act of 1967 which was still on the statute book, but it was given more bite and again as recently as 2008 and 2012, further amendments have been made to contain many of the provisions of the POTA Act. Given India’s abysmal human rights record, the primary use of these Acts is to target anyone who raises a legitimate voice against the activities of the Police or against the corruption that is endemic in Indian society.

The conference was organised by the People's Movement Against UAPA and concluded with a firm declaration that the movement will be further strengthened across the country till the inhuman law is removed from statute. Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur was present and spoke about the concerns for the Sikh community in particular. We would like to remind readers that in December 2013 Pal Singh France, Makhan Singh and Gurmukh Singh were sentenced to 10 years each under the UAPA Act. 

© The Sikh Organisation for Prisoners Welfare 2017