CHANDIGARH: The Committee Against Draconian Laws on Sunday organised a convention against ‘draconian laws’ at Bakhna Bhawan, Sector 29.
A large number of people from Punjab and Haryana, who were victims of the laws like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967 and Sedition shared their tales that how, they were arrested under these laws and remained subject to mental and physical torture. The legal experts, and democratic rights activists also shared their views on the issue. This convention was the first of its kind in which wide range of people from both of these states have participated and enriched the gathering about the atrocious impact of these draconian laws and provisions.
Interestingly, there were total 19 people from Haryana who were arrested under the UAPA and the Sedition in 2009 and they remained subject to brutal physical and mental torture. It included activists from student organisations like Jagrook Chhatar Morcha and Bharti Kisan Union and landless labourers organisations. But all these were acquitted by the court later on. “I was ordinary student. I didn’t know what is Sedition; I didn’t know what is UAPA; when I was arrested in 2009,” said Poonam, a student activist, who remained in jail for three and half years under these draconian laws. She asked that who is responsible for these three years. “Now, I know what is Sedition and what is UAPA,” she said.
Similarly other victims of these laws like, peasant leader Surjit Phool, Dilbagh Singh, landless labourer organization leader Sanjeev Mintu and Jaspal Singh Manjhpur from Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar-Panch Pardhani) also shared their experiences.
Jatinder Singh, an assistant professor from Punjabi University, Patiala said that there is a serious need to have a relook on the entire legal system of Indian union which is giving more and more powers to the police and intelligence agencies and the democratic space of the masses are shrinking day by day. He further cautioned that we as a country are walking on the road from democracy to undeclared dictatorship. We are living in a nation that no more respect the rule of law and the fundamentals of jurisprudence.
Rajvinder Singh Bains, advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court shared his experience of the trial of cases booked under TADA, POTA and UAPA. He said that with each of these laws the rights of the accused are shrinking. The entire criminal judicial system is forgetting the basic principle of the presumption of innocence till proven guilty.
Jagmohan Singh from AFDR, Punjab, has questioned the whole notions of ‘seditious’ and ‘unlawful’ activities. He said that the sedition laws were enacted by British colonial power to declare the freedom fighters like Gadarites and Bhagat Singh as ‘anti-national’. These laws were used by the British to suppress the Indian freedom struggle. Our great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh was also sentenced to death under section 121 IPC i.e. waging war against the state. This draconian provision is still present in Indian statute books. In present times, the Indian state is using these same laws to stifle the voices of political dissent. It shows that, in real sense, the Indian masses are still being deprived of fundamental freedoms which were the ultimate dream of our freedom fighters.