In 2004, when the Congress led UPA government came to power it repealed the POTA, which it admitted had been grossly misused. It simultaneously amended an existing law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 (UAPA), siphoning into it some of extraordinary provisions of POTA, including those pertaining to banning of terrorist organizations. The conditions of banning under the amended Act no longer require a statement to explain the reasons of issuing a ban, a gazette notification merely adding an entry to the Schedule of the Act is sufficient, and there do not exist any provision for judicial redress.
On 22 June 2009, the CPI (Maoist) was added to the list of banned organizations in the Schedule of the UAPA. The Home Minister has claimed that the notification banning the organization was made necessary to remove ambivalences. Indeed, the CPI (M-L), PWG, and the MCC, which later merged to form the CPI (Maoist), were banned organizations since 5 December 2001. Apart from the futility of banning, the notification shows the total disregard the government continues to have towards people’s movements around issues of livelihood, dispossession and alienation that have accumulated and aggravated over the last several years of the unleashing of neo- liberal policies on unsuspecting tribal populations and the rural poor.
It is indeed ironical that a month back, this government had claimed to have returned to power on the weight of its social policy programmes. The politics of banning is indeed reflective of a regime which despite its electoral victory, has but a truncated social base. Banning the CPI (Maoist), is therefore, not just arbitrary, it shows that the UPA government has lost the political courage to address the substantive issues of land and livelihood that the adivasis have been raising across the country in Chhattisgarh, Orissa or West Bengal. While banning itself is undemocratic and constrains the ideological spaces of freedom, in this case, it seems to also send across the message that like the government of any authoritarian state, this government too would prefer to use the law to suppress dissent violently. Much has been made of Maoist violence in the press. Without condoning this violence, PUDR would ask the Home Minister to note the extremely debilitating socio-economic contexts which has precipitated the adivasi movements in the country, and use the electoral mandate it has received to direct attention where it is required most, and in a way which is conducive to democracy through long term social programmes addressing issues of economic disparity.
Moushumi Basu and Gautam Navlakha