The UAPA bill has been ultimately passed by the Rajya Sabha yesterday. UAPA refer to Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which the Central government has got a right to ‘designate’ an individual as a terrorist. While there is no immediate threat to arrest, the person will have to appeal to the government with in forty days of his/her name appearing in the government gazetteer. If the Ministry oblige you then, it will fix up a committee constituting a retired High Court or Supreme Court Judge along with several other members, mostly from MoHA. If they found you fine then your name will be removed but if not then you will get to file against it at the High Court.
Now, given the nature of things happening in India with rabid communalism terming dissent as being anti national, it would be easier for a lynch mob to kill a person or his family once the name appears in the media. We know it very well that this absolutely spineless media would not only add few spices into the story but also instigate people to kill such people. There was a time, when media fought against such draconian measures like Maintenance of Internal Security Act ( MISA) during emergency when agencies had the right to detain any one without any charge-sheet. There were other laws like Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act ( POTA) which was misused against the Muslims, the most and became a poll issue too. It was finally withdrawn but government brought UAPA in the disguise. This was UPA government’s act which was amended and shamelessly opposition parties failed to rise up to the occasion.
In Rajya Sabha, NDA is short of majority yet all the bills that were passed in Lok Sabha also got through Rajya Sabha without much difficulties. Not only opposition parties mainly Congress tamely surrendered. The party’s response on triple talaq was equally baffling but then Congress does not seem to have learn any lesson and it is more painful for all those who trust it to fight for their right.
Terrorism is a global problem and definitely killing innocent people need to be condemned unconditionally. It is also important to inquire what breeds terror and whether this is merely a political game or historical injustices too. If terrorism is to be used in terms of propagating any idea which are detrimental to our national security, integrity of the country or its unity then, broadly, one should agree with it as we all are bound by the constitution of our countries and in our case, Indian constitution, which we all are proud of, giving us so much of space and opportunities to express our opinions and dissent.
Problem is not that we should not fight or make law against terrorism. Government is duty bound to ensure safety of the people and make laws in the better interest of the people. The issue here is whether this naming and shaming is a correct thing to do so. If a person is declared terrorist by the government, then why should he be allowed to move around freely. Why shouldn’t he be arrested, proper charges are framed and fix up a time frame under special courts but what is disturbing is that you declare an individual as terrorist, put his or name in the official gazetteer and then ask him to prove that he or she is innocent. So the person will have to run here and there for six months to get into final clearance whether he or she is not a terrorist. We know how our file moves, and we should not be surprised that this will aggravate the issue. Will the government provide security to the family of the people who are designated terrorists so that the ‘nationalist’ mob does not kill them. Will their identities be kept secret. How is that a Republic TV or an India TV or Aaj Tak reporter forcing enter the homes of the ‘accused’ and broadcasting live from there intimidatingly thirsting their mikes on the family people or the person who is accused. Will it not create further frenzy and anarchy.
We can only hope that these are used in rarest of the rare cases. There is a provision globally done by the UN which declared Hafiz Sayed as a terrorist and he is patronized by the state. Every state have extra-state actors and Hafiz is Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence’s prime catch against India. Pakistan has been humiliated internationally because of him and many others residing there but the religious frenzy and power make them strong. When UN declared Hafiz Sayed Global Terrorist, there was near unanimity among major countries and none challenge that process but like they traced Osama Bin Laden, none is going to harm him as Pakistan always use him so when there is too much pressure, he will be put under house arrest and then silently allow to do things.
It is important to define it categorically so no innocent person is targeted. If naming and shaming is the thing then those spreading hatred in the name of religion, killing people at their will under any religious pretext, those who are proudly declaring them as hating the citizens of the country who have a different religious or caste identity. Will this instrument be used against the terror which spread through caste supremacy in our villages that has kept Dalits and tribal subjugated for centuries. We would definitely welcome it. What would we describe Godse and will the book that he justify killing Gandhi, be still available or will it be called a literature spreading terror because the home minister also talked about such literature that might spread terrorism can be designated as terrorist.
As I said government is duty bound to protect people and not to intimidate them or snoop them. A healthy democracy is ultimately good for all of us and it can not be imposed by thousands of laws and tactics. we hope this law will not be able to pass the validity test from the Supreme Court. Let us hope lawyers and human rights defenders will take it to the court so that this not misused.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity