Peoples Union for Democratic Rights strongly condemns the imposition of the National Security Act (NSA) against Bhim Army's founder leader Chandrashekhar Azad by Yogi Adityanath's government, on 3 November 2017, a day after he was granted bail by Allahabad High Court.
Chandrashekhar had been arrested on 8 June 2017 on charges of inciting violence and destruction of property, in connection with an incident of violence that occurred on 9 May in Saharanpur city and neighbouring city of Ramnagar, in which some vehicles were burnt and some policemen were allegedly injured because of stone pelting. This incident had been triggered in turn by the lathi charge on a peaceful protest organized by Bhim Army demanding justice for the dalit victims of Shabbirpur village who had been attacked by the Rajputs on 5 May, leading to burning of over 40 of their houses and injuring over 13 of them. Till date little action has been taken against the upper caste accused in this first incident, while dalits of the village have had no justice, and members of the Bhim Army who took up their cause, have been arrested, and on the run.
It should be noted that the supporters of Bhim Army had been fearing that the Uttar Pradesh government would impose the draconian NSA against Chandrashekhar since last year as he has emerged as a powerful leader amongst the dalits and Bhim Army led by him has been successfully confronting the Rajputs and the police against the instances of caste based discrimination and atrocities.
The Bhim army was founded on 21 July 2015 and is an Ambedkarite organisation consisting of dalit volunteers who raise their voices against caste oppression and also run schools for dalit students. The Bhim Army has emerged as a threat to the dominance of the Rajput community and the Sangh Parivar and has a potential to grow as a powerful opposition to the ruling BJP in UP.
The blatant manner and timing of the Government’s imposition of NSA to keep Chandrashekhar under detention, when the High Court while granting bail said that the charges against him were politically motivated and he was falsely implicated, exposes the open complicity of the state with upper caste right wing interests. The imposition of the NSA is another politically motivated act, indicating the Yogi government’s disregard for justice and judicial pronouncements alike.
The use of the NSA is cynically done (in this case as in others since its inception in 1980) to detain the accused by simply painting the accused as a 'national security threat,' with no requirement to provide evidence. Section 3 of the NSA gives powers to the Central Government, various State Governments or even a Commissioner of Police or a District Magistrate to detain an Indian citizen or a foreigner to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India on presumption alone. It is therefore the subjective opinion of the authority that is enough to keep a person under detention and that too for unlimited time period. The definition of the conduct which attracts the application of the NSA is sufficiently vague to make its very use a misuse. Under Sections 9 to 12 of the Act, the government may constitute one or more Advisory Boards to review the grounds of detention and confirm or revoke a detention. However, the detainee cannot engage a lawyer to argue his case before the Advisory Board and the proceedings and report of the Advisory Board is confidential. Both of these provisions make relief to the detainee less plausible and both strengthen the hands of the authorities to prolong his incarceration.
It is not surprising that this draconian law has been arbitrarily used against hundreds of activists of the trade unions, peasant organisations, students and many other opponents of the government policies as it allows the detention of dissenters, on the basis of vague and flimsy grounds for voicing legitimate political and democratic demands.
The imposition of the completely draconian NSA allows the authorities to keep Chandrashekhar under preventive detention, when he has not really committed a crime and cannot be charged under IPC. It is being used as a means of crushing the legitimate struggle of the Bhim Army for dalits who are demanding their democratic rights, and trying to resist entrenched casteist right wing attitudes and groups and biased governmental machinery.
In view of these multiple violations of rights and justice PUDR urgently demands that:
- Chandrashekhar should be immediately released and NSA charges against him be dropped.
- The National Security Act (NSA) which is a draconian, anti-democratic, extraordinary law whose use itself implies multiple violations of fundamental rights should be repealed outright.
(Anushka Singh and Cijo)
6th November 2017