Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

cast away illusions, prepare for struggle!

Indian Political Prisoner Kobad Ghandy ends hunger strike

June 6, 2015
kobad

Kobad Ghandy, arrested in 2009

Kobad Ghandy, the 68-year-old undertrial lodged in Tihar Jail here, called off his hunger strike on Friday soon after a court ordered the jail authorities to provide him easier access to basic facilities and adequate health care.

Continue reading

“Independent India” Uses British Empire’s “Sedition” Laws to Suppress Dissent

The theatrical trailer of COURT, a winner of 17 International awards  An Indian reviewer said the film is a “remarkably assured, engrossing study of the power of the law and order machinery to crush protest through delays, deferred hearings and demands for further evidence.”  Forbes magazine in India said Chaitanya Tamhane, the director, is “Indian cinema’s new voice of subversion.”

Synopsis: A sewerage worker’s dead body is found inside a manhole in Mumbai. An ageing folk singer is tried in court on charges of abetment of suicide. He is accused of performing an inflammatory song which might have incited the worker to commit the act. As the trial unfolds, the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge involved in the case are observed outside the court.

.  .  .  .  .  .

A Law Less Majestic

Sanctioned by an archaic law and other draconian legislation, “sedition against the state” is a handy tool to fell voices of dissent
Ushinor Majumdar, Outlook India Magazine, week of May 18, 2015
SEDITION  —  Section 124A, Indian Penal Code, 1860: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.”
Punishment: Fine, or imprisonment of three years to life. Shall be punished with 104 (im­prisonment for life), to which fine may be added, or with impris­onment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Exception: Criticism, to be determined by the judiciary
UAPA  —  Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967: Following a constitutional amendment, UAPA was enacted to “impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, on the (i) freedom of speech and expression (ii) right to assemble peaceably and without arms and (iii) right to form associations or unions” 

Punishment: Penalties ranging from five years to life imprisonment along with fines. If the offence leads to loss of life, a death sentence can be awarded.
Unlawful associations: Secessionist and terrorist associations; to be determined and notified by ministry of home affairs

***

Behind every man who has been labelled ‘seditious’ by the State is a law that goes back 155 years. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code dates to 1860, three years after the British were rattled by what came to be known as the Sepoy Mutiny. There is also the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a handy tool to silence ‘dangerous’ people with ‘dangerous’ ideas. Why, a week before it was held unconstitutional, Samajwadi Party leader and UP cabinet minister Azam Khan used Section 66A of the Information Technology Act to penalise a Class 11 student in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.
The police are arbitrary and indiscriminate in the use of the sedition law, arresting people even for activities like singing, acting in street plays, reciting poems, painting graffiti on walls, not standing up during the national anthem or for cheering the Pakistani cricket team. These have, of course, usually accompa­nied the more serious charges of sympathising, funding or acting with Maoists or suspected terror organisations.

‘Terrorism Isn’t The Disease; Egregious Injustice Is’

PANINI ANAND interviews ARUNDHATI ROY

photo by NARENDRA BISHT

No one individual critic has taken on the Indian State like Arundhati Roy has. In a fight that began with Pokhran, moved to Narmada, and over the years extended to other insurgencies, people’s struggles and the Maoist underground, she has used her pensmanship to challenge India’s government, its elite, corporate giants, and most recently, the entire structure of global finance and capitalism. She was jailed for a day in 2002 for contempt of court, and slapped with sedition charges in November 2010 for an alleged anti-India speech she delivered, along with others, at a seminar in New Delhi on Kashmir, titled ‘Azadi—the only way’. Excerpts from an interview to Panini Anand:

How do you look at laws like sedition and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or those like AFSPA, in what is touted as the largest democracy?
I’m glad you used the word touted. It’s a good word to use in connection with India’s democracy. It certainly is a democracy for the middle class. In places like Kashmir or Manipur or Chhattisgarh, democracy is not available. Not even in the black market. Laws like the UAPA, which is just the UPA government’s version of POTA, and the AFSPA are ridiculously authoritarian—they allow the State to detain and even kill people with complete impunity. They simply ought to have no place in a democracy. But as long as they don’t affect the mainstream middle class, as long as they are used against people in Manipur, Nagaland or Kashmir, or against the poor or against Muslim ‘terrorists’ in the ‘mainland’, nobody seems to mind very much.

“India’s democracy is for the middle class; for Kashmir or Manipur, it’s not available. Not even in the black market.”

Are the people waging war against the State or is the State waging war against its people? How do you look at the Emergency of the ’70s, or the minorities who feel targeted, earlier the Sikhs and now the Muslims?
Some people are waging war against the State. The State is waging a war against a majority of its citizens. The Emergency in the ’70s became a problem because Indira Gandhi’s government was foolish enough to target the middle class, foolish enough to lump them with the lower classes and the disenfranchised. Vast parts of the country today are in a much more severe Emergency-like situation. But this contemporary Emergency has gone into the workshop for denting-painting. It’s come out smarter, more streamlined. I’ve said this before: look at the wars the Indian government has waged since India became a sovereign nation; look at the instances when the army has been called out against its ‘own’ people—Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Kashmir, Telangana, Goa, Bengal, Punjab and (soon to come) Chhattisgarh—it is a State that is constantly at war. And always against minorities—tribal people, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, never against the middle class, upper-caste Hindus.
How does one curb the cycle of violence if the State takes no action against ultra-left ‘terrorist groups’? Wouldn’t it jeopardise internal security?
I don’t think anybody is advocating that no action should be taken against terrorist groups, not even the ‘terrorists’ themselves. They are not asking for anti-terror laws to be done away with. They are doing what they do, knowing full well what the consequences will be, legally or otherwise. They are expressing fury and fighting for a change in a system that manufactures injustice and inequality. They don’t see themselves as ‘terrorists’. When you say ‘terrorists’ if you are referring to the CPI (Maoist), though I do not subscribe to Maoist ideology, I certainly do not see them as terrorists. Yes they are militant, they are outlaws. But then anybody who resists the corporate-state juggernaut is now labelled a Maoist—whether or not they belong to or even agree with the Maoist ideology. People like Seema Azad are being sentenced to life imprisonment for possessing banned literature. So what is the definition of ‘terrorist’ now, in 2012? It is actually the economic policies that are causing this massive inequality, this hunger, this displacement that is jeopardising internal security—not the people who are protesting against them. Do we want to address the symptoms or the disease? The disease is not terrorism. It’s egregious injustice. Sure, even if we were a reasonably just society, Maoists would still exist. So would other extremist groups who believe in armed resistance or in terrorist attacks. But they would not have the support they have today. As a country, we should be ashamed of ourselves for tolerating this squalor, this misery and the overt as well as covert ethnic and religious bigotry we see all around us. (Narendra Modi for Prime Minister!! Who in their right mind can even imagine that?) We have stopped even pretending that we have a sense of justice. All we’re doing is genuflecting to major corporations and to that sinking ocean-liner known as the United States of America. Continue reading

Will Arundhati Roy face sedition charges?

Press Trust of India, November 27, 2010

New Delhi: A Delhi court today ordered registration of FIR against hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, writer Arundhati Roy and five others for allegedly making anti-India speeches.

“The Delhi police is hereby directed to lodge an FIR under relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code and file a report in this regard on January 6, 2011 the next date of hearing,” Metropolitan Magistrate Navita Kumari Bagha said.

The court rejected the status report submitted by the Delhi Police which said no offence relating to sedition and other charges were made out against Geelani and others. It said there were prime facie cogent evidence against the accused and asked the police to further investigate the allegations and file a compliance report. The court had earlier pulled up the police for failing to submit proper status report on the complaint filed with them on October 28 by Sushil Pandit seeking registration of FIR against Roy and Geelani.

Besides Geelani and Roy, the complaint sought prosecution of five others, including Delhi University professor S A R Geelani, who was acquitted in Parliament attack case, and Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a professor of Jammu and Kashmir University.

According to the complaint, the accused made the comments at a convention here in October on ‘Azadi- The Only Way’. Hurriyat leader Geelani shared the dais with Roy and pro-Maoist leader Vara Vara Rao among others. Geelani was heckled by the audience. Continue reading