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India’s UAPA law: Curbing Terrorism or Stifling Democratic Dissent?

India’s UAPA law: Curbing Terrorism or Stifling Democratic Dissent?

The UAPA Law – Curbing Terrorism or Stifling Dissent?

24/01/2023

By Hindus for Human Rights

(DESH-VIDESH CONVERSATION SERIES – SPEAKING ACROSS THE DIVIDE)
Digital Evidence Planting: New Age Threat to Rights Defenders
Presented by Safa Ahmed of the Indian American Muslim Council on behalf of a broad coalition working to secure the release of all the Bhima Koregaon prisoners

WHY ARE MOST OF THE BHIMA KOREGAON DEFENDANTS STILL IN JAIL DESPITE FORENSIC FINDINGS THAT INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE HAD BEEN PLANTED ON SOME OF THEIR COMPUTERS?

Good evening. Digital forensics is a dry, technical field, but the consequences of digital attacks play out like a vivid, terrifying, and painful movie. With the help of technical experts, journalists, and activists, I have prepared for you this narrative of what was revealed in the forensic analysis of the hard drives of three of the BK-16 – Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, and Father Stan Swamy.
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Invite: India’s UAPA law: Curbing Terrorism or Stifling Democratic Dissent?

20/01/2023

By Hindus for Human Rights / @Hindus4HR

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and India’s Prisoners of Conscience (POCs): Targeting terrorism or stifling democratic dissent?
Saturday, January 21, 2023
6 pm PST,
7:30 am IST
The conversation will cover the history and the draconian provisions of the UAPA; how it compares to anti-terror laws in other democracies; the views of the State Department and USCIRF; what are some of the typical charges being made being under UAPA. Do they look unlawful to you? Some statistics: How many people arrested since the amended UAPA; Average time spent w/o trial or bail hearing; How many have gone to trial, etc.

Moderator: Govind Acharya, Amnesty International
Panelists:
Banojyotsna Lahiri, Activist, on Umar Khalid’s story and struggle
Yug Mohit Chaudhry, Author and Criminal Lawyer, on legal strategies on behalf of POCs and hurdles faced
Mihir Desai, Human Rights Lawyer, on the story and struggle of Bhima Koregaon 16 and what’s happening to lesser known detainees
Followed by a Q&A moderated by Govind Acharya
Register here

Press Conference / Statement by MRSD: Fabricating Evidence – Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer

Press Conference / Statement by MRSD: Fabricating Evidence – Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer

By Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy (MRSD)

In wake of the recent Arsenal report which exposes the malicious tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer, MRSD* organized a press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case” on December 22, 2022.
Speakers:
Fr. Joe Xavier, Convenor of Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits and Former Executive Director of the Indian Social Institute.
Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Former principal of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and the Parish Priest of St Peter’s Church.
Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate at High Court of Bombay.
Nagarjuna G., Former Professor, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

*MRSD is a forum constituted by several democratic rights, civil society and people’s organisations to campaign for the release of human rights defenders falsely charged and imprisoned in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, the repeal of UAPA and for upholding the citizens’ right to dissent.


en | 1:31 | 2022
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Press Statement

22/12/2022

By Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy*

Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case

The latest report released by Arsenal Consulting, a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm- proves that Father Stan’s computer was infiltrated by hackers since October 19th 2014, and more than 40 documents were planted in it. In his last video statement before his arrest, Stan had asserted that documents shown to him by the NIA were fabricated. Inspite of the same he was arrested on 8th October 2020 and subsequently died on 5th July 2021 in custody. Stan’s case represents not just grave injustice to the 84-year-old, but also the deep denigration of basic humanity by the system.
Fr. Stan was incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon (BK) conspiracy case which has come to represent a major conspiracy against human rights defenders in India. Including Stan, 16 activists, lawyers, academicians have been arrested since 2018 in the case filed by the Pune police (later on transferred to NIA) following caste violence that broke out against Dalit visitors on January 1, 2018, in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune. Ironically, the police invoked UAPA, a law that Stan vehemently resisted, to arrest the BK-16 activists, and brand them as anti-nationals, urban naxals and members of a banned political party and even alleged involvement in a purported assassination plan on the Prime minister. The long list of allegations in the case is meant to arouse the deepest suspicion against these 16 accused, and against their work of defending democracy and people’s struggles.
Fr. Stan worked tirelessly especially for Adivasis in Jharkhand, their rights to land, forest, and against their false incarceration. Apart from being an activist, he also documented many instances of injustices in an impeccable manner. He also raised objections to instances of illegal mining and other supposed development projects which had the impact of displacing people from their home and hearths.
Fr. Stan’s arrest in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, despite his ill-health and age, is a proof of the system’s apathy to human rights defenders. During his last months in prison, he repeatedly requested to be shifted to his residence in Ranchi. A patient of the Parkinson’s disease, Stan faced multiple challenges during his incarceration. Inspite of having contracted Covid and taking seriously ill, he was denied timely medical treatment and care in prison. However, no cognizance of this was taken, and the situation deteriorated resulting in the death of Fr. Stan, even while his application for bail was pending. His untimely and tragic death is a result of the sheer negligence of the jail authorities, NIA and failure of the entire criminal justice system to protect a defender of justice. Such denial of rights becomes even more stark with emerging documentary proof that the evidence presented in the case were fabricated. It must be noted that in April 2021, Arsenal consulting had already released a report proving the malicious hacking and planting of documents in computers of co-accused, Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling.
The fact that Fr. Stan died before he could get a chance to prove his innocence is jarring. This case shows the extent to which illegal cyber-attacks are being used in Digital India to build false criminal cases against innocent citizens who can then be jailed indefinitely under the UAPA law. Such is the desperation of the system to incarcerate human rights defenders and dehumanize the society at large. At the same time, the real instigators of violence at Bhima Koregaon, Milind Ekbote of Samastha Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Chhatrapati Pratishan are not being prosecuted and are instead being shielded politically.

We call for:
1. Immediate release of all remaining co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case and quashing of the case against them on the basis of fabricated evidence.
2. Reparations and justice for the wrongful incarceration of Fr. Stan Swamy that resulted in his death.
3. Impartial and independent investigation into the tampering of electronic devices and fabrication of evidence against the BK-16 accused in the case.
4. Impartial and independent investigation into the role of Milind Ekbote, Sambhaji Bhide and other right-wing leaders and outfits for planning and inciting violence on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon and their prosecution in the FIRs filed against them.
5. Repeal of draconian UAPA law used as a tool to curb dissent and political opposition.

*Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy: MRSD is a forum constituted by more than 20 democratic rights, civil society and people’s organisations to campaign for the release of those arrested in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, repeal of UAPA and for upholding the citizens’ right to dissent.

Also read:
Hackers Planted Files to Frame an Indian Priest Who Died in Custody (Wired / Dec 13, 2022)

Press Release: India Behind Bars – The Cost Of Free Speech

Press Release: India Behind Bars – The Cost Of Free Speech

by AILAJ (Oct 8, 2022):
AILAJ co-organised ‘India Behind Bars’ press conference in the Press Club of India with
@AISA_tweets and @ryaindia. Hundreds of students, teachers, activists and concerned citizens of Delhi joined us.


By AISA (Oct 8, 2022):
Despite heavy rains, students, citizens of Delhi flooded the Press Club of India in solidarity with different political prisoners incarcerated under acts like UAPA, PSA, NIA etc. #FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners #IndiaBehindBars


Recording by Millat Times: India Behind Bars: The Cost Of Free Speech (Excerpt)


En/Hindi/Urdu | 30min | 2022
Watch video


click to enlarge posters

by Akash (Oct 6, 2022):
To quote Com. Ravi Rai @ravirai2015: “Those behind bars spoke up for us, it’s time for us to speak up for them.” #DelhiPogrom #bhimakoregaon
Join the Press Conference on 8 October at the Press Club.
#FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners #RepealUAPA


by AILAJ_HQ (Oct 5, 2022)
Join us on 8th Oct at 4 p.m. at the Press Club of India, New Delhi for a press conference on India Behind Bars: The Cost of Free Speech where we demand the scrapping of draconian laws and release of political prisoners.

click to enlarge poster

#ReleaseAllPoliticalPrisoners

click to enlarge posters

Also read:

Report: UAPA – CRIMINALISING DISSENT AND STATE TERROR (PUCL / Sep 2022)
Download report

PUCL Report: UAPA – CRIMINALISING DISSENT AND STATE TERROR (#RepealUAPA campaign)

PUCL Report: UAPA – CRIMINALISING DISSENT AND STATE TERROR (#RepealUAPA campaign)

PUCL Report: UAPA – CRIMINALISING DISSENT AND STATE TERROR (#RepealUAPA campaign)

28/09/2022

By V. Suresh, Madhura SB and Lekshmi Sujatha (PUCL)

Study of UAPA Abuse in India, 2009 – 2022
Published: Sep 28, 2022
41 pages
PUCL’s study on the use and abuse of UAPA covering the period between 2009 and 2022, with special emphasis on the NIA. A first in the series of a larger collaborative work as part of #RepealUAPA campaign.
Download report


PUCL report alleges abuse of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

02/10/2022

The Hindu / by The Hindu Bureau

Report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties says ‘suo motu power’ by Centre to transfer investigation from the State police was a ‘serious threat to federalism’
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has released a report titled ‘UAPA: Criminalising Dissent and State Terror’ on the alleged abuse of the legislation during 2009-22, and demanding the law be repealed.
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97.2% of UAPA accused jailed for long periods and eventually acquitted, study finds

02/10/2022

The News Minute / by Jahnavi Reddy

The PUCL study found that 8,371 persons were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act between 2015 and 2020, while only 235 were convicted under the draconian anti-terror law in the same period.
A total of 8,371 persons were arrested in 5,924 cases under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) across India between 2015 and 2020, according to a report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which sheds light on the Union government’s alleged abuse of the anti-terror law and calls to repeal it. In the same period, however, only 235 persons were convicted under the UAPA.
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Draconian UAPA provisions challenged in the SC [read petition] / SC to hear plea on Oct 18

Draconian UAPA provisions challenged in the SC [read petition] / SC to hear plea on Oct 18

Draconian UAPA provisions, constitutionality challenged in the SC [read petition]

28/09/2022

Sabrang India / by Tanya Arora

The most recent challenge to the UA(P)A is a petition filed that makes the case that vague language and arbitrary provisions violate allow governments to abuse powers and violate the fundamental rights of the citizens
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, is being challenged in court as having “manifestly arbitrary” provisions and a very broad definition of “unlawful activity” that has a stifling impact on free expression. The Supreme Court, that first took up the matter September 26, 2022 will hear the matter on October 18.
… The petition argues that the UAPA’s provisions are “arbitrary and perverse, since they represent a condemnation of all democratic expression,” and that governments are abusing them “to target any and all kinds of dissent.” The petition was filed through attorney Rahul Bhatia.
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Supreme Court to hear plea challenging UAPA on October 18

27/09/2022

Scroll.in / by Scroll Staff

The petitioner has argued that the law is being misused by the government as a political tool to target all forms of dissent.
The Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on October 18, Live Law reported.
Under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, investigation agencies get 180 days to probe a case, as against 60-90 days under ordinary criminal law.
… Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Siddiqui Kappan and Stan Swamy are some of the activists who have been accused under the draconian law.
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Prisoners of Conscience Under Modi Regime

Prisoners of Conscience Under Modi Regime

By Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation

Since the BJP’s rise to power in 2014, the list of people -ranging from human rights activists to lawyers, and journalists to students – being persecuted for their identity and their fidelity to fighting for democratic and progressive rights, has grown rapidly. Starting from the arrests related to Bhima Koregaon in 2018 and protests against CAA in 2020 to the recent arrests of activist  Teesta Setalvad and journalist Mohammad Zubair, the current regime is bent on imprisoning any person who speaks uncomfortable truths and exposes their lies.
Read full statemnt

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Also visit:

Prisoners of Conscience in India. The Prisoners of Conscience in India (PoCI) documents and highlights the cases of people who have been imprisoned in India because of their peaceful expression of political, religious, or other conscientiously held beliefs.

On courts and the tenability of the case / “When Will Trial Start?”: SC asks NIA

On courts and the tenability of the case / “When Will Trial Start?”: SC asks NIA

Just in case: On courts and the tenability of the Bhima Koregaon case

12/08/2022

The Hindu / by Editorial

It is time the tenability of the Bhima Koregaon case was examined by courts.
The grant of bail to the 82-year-old Telugu poet and activist, Varavara Rao, on medical grounds is a welcome relief to at least one of those arraigned in the controversial Bhima-Koregaon case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
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Punishing process: Supreme Court bail for Varavara Rao again raises questions for the justice system

11/08/2022

Times of India / by TOI Edit

In granting permanent medical bail to Varavara Rao, the Supreme Court has made it clear that stringent restrictions against bail in laws like UAPA don’t hinder constitutional courts from protecting fundamental rights. Last year, SC had relied on this principle to uphold bail to a UAPA accused – arguing that his incarceration for over five years while the trial crawled on was unjustified. But Rao’s bail, granted on technical grounds – medical condition, advanced age, adherence to bail conditions, delay in framing charges – doesn’t answer any of the larger questions confronting the justice system.
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“When Will Trial Start?”, “How Will Letters Be Proved?”, Supreme Court Asks NIA In Bhima Koregaon Case

10/08/2022

Live Law / by Livelaw News Network

While hearing Varavara Rao’s bail application, the Supreme Court on Wednesday posed a host of queries to the National Investigation Agency on the Bhima Koregaon case, in which the agency has kept in custody several persons from academic-activist backgrounds on UAPA charges over alleged links with banned Maoist organization.
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Andhra Pradesh: Social activists demand repeal of UAPA

Andhra Pradesh: Social activists demand repeal of UAPA

The Hindu / by Special Correspondent

Activists under the banner of the UAPA Repeal Agitation Committee(URAC) urged Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana to direct the Centre to repeal the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
… Speaking on the occasion, Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) State president Ch. Sudhakar contended that the Act had been misused against activists in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Read more


Also read:
UAPA Case Data Suggests That Process Is Indeed the Punishment (The Wire / July 2022)

Activists press for repeal of UAPA / UAPA Case Data Suggests That Process Is Indeed the Punishment

Activists press for repeal of UAPA / UAPA Case Data Suggests That Process Is Indeed the Punishment

Andhra Pradesh: Activists press for repeal of UAPA

20/07/2022

The Hindu / by Special Correspondent

‘Its provisions being misused to muzzle voices of those who opposed atrocities against people of weaker sections’
Activists under the banner of the UAPA Repeal Agitation Committee staged a demonstration in front of the Prakasam Bhavan here on Tuesday demanding the repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Leading the protest, Organisation for Protection of Democracy(OPDR) State president Ch. Sudhakar contended that the Act, misused to slap cases against activists in the Bhima Koregaon case, was more draconian than the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities(prevention) ACT(TADA), and urged the Supreme Court to give a direction to the Centre for its repeal.
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UAPA Case Data Suggests That Process Is Indeed the Punishment

20/07/2022

The Wire / by The Wire Staff

Data revealed by the Union home ministry in the Rajya Sabha showed that 97.5% of people arrested under UAPA between 2016 and 2020 have been imprisoned for multiple years while waiting for trial.
Figures released by the Union home ministry in the Rajya Sabha have backed up the belief that the ‘process is the punishment‘, especially when cases are registered under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Read more


Also watch:

Repeal UAPA – Persecution by Prosecution (PUCL, Jan 2021)

Three Day consultation
► Repeal UAPA – Day One (video: en + … | 2h 17min)
► Repeal UAPA – Day Two (video: en +… | 2h 22min)
► Repeal UAPA – Day Three (video: en + … | 2h 51min)

In Umar Khalid’s Bail Appeal, a Ray of Hope for UAPA Cases?

In Umar Khalid’s Bail Appeal, a Ray of Hope for UAPA Cases?

The Quint / by Vakasha Schdev

While the SC’s Watali judgment is cited to deny bail in UAPA cases, a new interpretation could prevent its misuse.
… On top of the general problems with the justice system that have led to this situation, Khalid’s continued incarceration, like that of the other accused in the Delhi Riots conspiracy case as well as the Bhima Koregaon matter, is a result of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – the UAPA.
Read more


Also watch:

Repeal UAPA – Persecution by Prosecution (PUCL, Jan 2021)

Three Day consultation on 20th, 21st and 22nd January, 2021
► Repeal UAPA – Day One (video: en + … | 2h 17min)
► Repeal UAPA – Day Two (video: en +… | 2h 22min)
► Repeal UAPA – Day Three (video: en + … | 2h 51min)