Maoist Literature, Presence at protest not grounds of arrest under UAPA: Kochi HC

The existence of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act allows any government, irrespective of its ideology, to target and repress anyone whose dissent is inconvenient for the party in power.

UAPA

UAPA Arrested Youth from Kerala Granted Bail by Special NIA Court

Two youths from Kozhikode who had been charged under the UAPA last year for their alleged Maoist links were granted bail by a Kochi NIA Special Court. The two arrested were Taha Fazal and Alan Shuhaib, both branch committee members of the CPI(M) and students of journalism and law at Kannur University.

In 2019, Fazal and Shuhaib had been protesting against the encounter killing of four people suspected to be Maoists in the Manjeekkandi forest of Attappady in Palakkad district. The four people had been killed by the Kerala Thunderbolts, a special force of the police that carries out counterinsurgency operations. While the police force claimed that they had shot the 4 people for self defence, the killings were widely condemned by various parties, and termed as a ‘fake encounter’.

At the time, the CPI, the second largest constituent of the Left Democratic Front after the CPI(M), had submitted a report to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan taking the stand that it was a fake encounter, Newsminute reported. They took the stand that although they did not agree with the Maoists, it was undemocratic to simply kill them in fake encounters, and the LDF, by and large, agreed that the Maoist issue should be treated as more of a socio-economic problem than a law and order one.

A police patrolling team had allegedly spotted Fazal and Shuhaib under “suspicious circumstances” and seized the leaflets they were distributing which were allegedly promoting Maoism. They were taken into custody and their homes were searched, where the police gathered more “material” as evidence of their pro-Maoist links. According to a report on Sabrang India, these materials included books titled “Caste Issues in India” and “Organizational democracy – disagreement with Lenin”, portraits of Che Guevara, poster images reading “Ban UAPA”, “Kurdistan Solidarity network Kerala”, images of a CPIM flag, photo of Maoist leader Roopesh, an image of a hanging PM Modi, and so on.

While their pleas for bail had been rejected twice before, Judge Anil K Bhaskar at the NIA Special Court finally granted them bail, saying that “Mere possession of Maoist literature, presence in anti-government protests or strong political beliefs does not make a person complicit in terrorist activity.”

The Judge further pointed out,

“Being a Maoist is not a crime, though the political ideology of Maoists does not synchronise with our constitutional polity. It becomes adverse only when there is any positive act from the side of the accused to instigate violence. Prima facie there is nothing to suggest any overt act on the side of the accused in this regard.”

While the Left government in Kerala might condemn the acts of the Central Government in arresting human rights activists and dissenters, it is important to note that the existence of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act allows any government, irrespective of its ideology, to target and repress anyone whose dissent is inconvenient for the party in power.

UAPA, NSA, PSA -Tools to suppress dissent

The BJP government has, using this law, targeted human rights activists and academics in the Bhima Koregaon case, then in the aftermath of the Abrogation of Article 370 and 35(A), and recently, in the arrests of anti-CAA-NRC protesters by framing them for the Delhi riots. The nature of the law makes it possible for the police to incriminate anyone based on something as simple as owning books that discuss social issues. Under this law, there is no definition of what constitutes as an intent to commit a terrorist act, and anything from a book about caste to a picture of a communist leader, which the police can search for and seize without any warrant, can be enough for someone to be arrested for years without any conviction.

The state has managed to make anything and everything antinational and Maoist! 

Under the present dispensation, even the slightest criticism of the government can land someone in jail under non-bailable draconian laws like UAPA and NSA. We can see this from the relentless arrests of teachers, lecturers, and students under UAPA for mere presence at the protest site during the Anti-CAA protests in Delhi. This is enough to discourage any well-intentioned person from raising his/her voice. Already there are very few dissenting voices, such an authoritarian atmosphere where you might be incriminated for mere possession of Che Guevara poster or anti-caste literature will silence them even further. In such a police state even having a divergent thought is enough to be called anti-national and Maoist…

Even Taha Fazal and Alan Shuhaib, both members of the ruling party in the State, were not immune to wrongful arrest under this law. Such a law, that allows for the incarceration of innocent people, of students and thinkers and protestors who have done nothing but uphold the values of the constitution and fought continuously for the ideals of social justice in our country, must be opposed tooth and nail irrespective of which party is in power.

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