The UAPA amendment bill: A draconian amendment to suppress the voices of dissent

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on June 24. If this bill becomes a law, it will empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists, without following any formal judicial process and without the need to produce any evidence to substantiate the claim. The name of the person will be added to the Fourth Schedule proposed to be added to the UAPA. The only statutory remedy available to such a person is to make an application before the Central government for de-notification, which can be considered by a review committee constituted by the government itself!

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on June 24. If this bill becomes a law, it will empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists, without following any formal judicial process and without the need to produce any evidence to substantiate the claim. The name of the person will be added to the Fourth Schedule proposed to be added to the UAPA. The only statutory remedy available to such a person is to make an application before the Central government for de-notification, which can be considered by a review committee constituted by the government itself!

What kind of person will be designated as terrorist by the government? Home Minister Amit Shah said in the Lok Sabha that “any person who indulges in terrorist acts will be designated a terrorist. Anyone who prepares for or encourages a terrorist act, or who is involved in funding a terrorist act will be designated as terrorist”.

The existing UAPA already has the provision of designating an organisation as terrorist. Any person associated with such an organization as a supporter, member or fund-raiser can be punished under the provisions of the existing UAPA.

What then is the aim of the government in designating definite individuals as terrorists? Home Minister Amit Shah revealed his government’s sinister motive in his address to the Lok Sabha: “And then there are those who attempt to plant terrorist literature and terrorist theory in the minds of the young. Guns do not give rise to terrorists. The root of terrorism is the propaganda that is done to spread it, the frenzy that is spread”. He further elaborated: “An individual’s psychology is the birth place of Terrorism, rather than an institution. If, in the first place, an individual is stopped from attracting other individuals into terrorism by providing ideological and financial support, this menace can be finished”. Hence, designating an individual as terrorist, is of prime importance to nip terrorism in the bud, he added.

“Terrorist literature” and “terrorist propaganda” have been kept deliberately undefined. In the past, people have been arrested under anti-terrorist laws for possessing books of Karl Marx, VI Lenin and Shaheed Bhagat Singh. They have been arrested under UAPA for advocating the rights of workers, peasants, tribals, women, dalits, and other oppressed sections.

The government can designate anyone as a terrorist, without any evidence or due legal process. Once a person is designated as a terrorist, his or her life and that of their families will be turned into a living hell. They will be continuously persecuted by state agencies, ostracized by society, lose their jobs, evicted by their landlords, and attacked by the media.

The UAPA is a draconian act which has been used time and again to crush the voices of dissent and struggle. Thousands of innocent people have been targeted and branded as terrorist, militant, secessionist, seditious, threat to national security, etc. simply for holding views opposed to those of the rulers, for opposing injustice to the workers, peasants, tribals, women, dalits and other oppressed sections, or even simply for their religious beliefs.

The government is holding the threat of designating a person as terrorist, in order to auppress into silence and submission all voices of opposition to state terrorism, all voices that defend the rights of the exploited and oppressed and propose an alternate vision of society. The proposed amendment must be vigorously opposed.

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