A group of intellectuals, under the banner of the organisation We The People of India, on Thursday condemned the charges filed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against some individuals protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens earlier this year. The signatories called the use of the UAPA and sedition laws “illegal”.
We The People of India is a platform of more than 100 civil society organisations formed to protest against the CAA, NRC and National Population Register. The platform includes intellectuals and academics such as Teesta Setalvad, Swaraj India founder Yogendra Yadav and All India Progressive Women’s Association Secretary Kavita Krishnan, among others.
The Delhi Police had earlier this week charged former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid, and Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar under the UAPA, in a case related to communal violence in North East Delhi in February. At least 53 people were killed and hundreds injured in the violence between supporters and opponents of CAA.
“We must remember that the protesters against NPR, NRC and CAA acted in accordance with their fundamental rights as conferred by the Constitution of India, and hence the invocation of UAPA and the colonial sedition laws are inherently illegal,” the group said. “This amounts to wrongful exercise of authority against lawful acts of citizens.”
The signatories claimed that the Centre was attempting to intimidate the leaders of the protests against the CAA, NRC and NPR, in order to crush the movement. They said the protestors would continue to demonstrate “in peace and with greater determination”.
The group called the government “anti-democratic” and said it was seeking to consolidate authoritarian power at a time when the whole country had come together to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The signatories laid out three demands. They demanded that the Delhi Police clarify whether and on what grounds the students have been charged under UAPA. The group demanded that if such charges had been filed, they should be immediately revoked. Thirdly, it said that those who were “actually responsible” for issuing communal statements leading to violence, should be punished in accordance with the law.
“At a time of such grave abuse of state power, we call on every citizen and every political party to stand together to protect our democracy,” the signatories said. “We ask the media to stand for the truth.”