What do a 90 per cent-disabled academic, a 19-year-old student, a journalist reporting on the Bengaluru blast case, 19 students from Hubli, and four juveniles from Manipur and Chhattisgarh have in common? They were all tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which has turned mere thought into crime.
Removing the distinction between belief and action, it has criminalised speech and thought “as terror”. Even thought it’s an overused term, that’s as close to Orwellian as we can get.
With GN Saibaba’s recent conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment, the spotlight is back on the draconian law whose vagueness allows for arrests with impunity.
The video above charts with the chilling details of a few landmark cases that have involved the Act over the last few years. Of the arrests that have been made under the Act, 72.7% have been acquitted. One of the reasons for frequent arrests under the Act, according to experts quoted in the video, is that it offers an overworked police force an easy route.
According to the Act, the police can take up to 180 days to file a chargesheet. In the intervening time, there have been numerous documented cases of torture, including waterboarding, which was documented in Arun Ferreira’s memoir Colours of the Cage, which is quoted in the video.
These are in direct contravention of Sections 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. With these cases, the video concludes, it is more than apparent that when “push comes to shove, our fundamental rights are meaningless”.