India’s most dangerous law is on its way.
The UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), an already very powerful law, has now given the Union Government, the power to declare not only organisations but also individuals as terrorists.
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act Amendment Bill 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha on 24th July 2019.
What is the amendment?
According to this amendment, the Government can declare any individual or group as terrorist if the government believes that they support any terrorist organization or are involved in unlawful activities.
Section 35 of the UAPA says that the government can label any organization as terrorist organization “if it BELIEVES that the organization is involved in terrorism”.
No prior formal judicial process will be required before labelling any individual as terrorist or indulging in terrorist activities by the Union Government. Such a person’s name will be included in the ‘Fourth Schedule’ which will be added through this amendment.
The individual henceforth declared as terrorist by the Central Government will not go through proper judicial process.
And the only option left with the individual will be to provide an application before the Union Government for de-notification which further will be reviewed by a review committee formed by the Government.
It is astonishing to notice that no consequence await the person who will be declared as terrorist. Maybe this is because punishments will require judicial process or maybe because a person who has been given that label on trivial grounds such as indulging in “terrorist literature” will reopen a gate for citizens to resist the Act.
Anyhow, the officially declared terrorist individual can face social boycott, expulsion from job or even “civil death”.
Also, no legal action has been defined against Government official(s) who will wrongly put a label of terrorist on an innocent which leaves them unaccountable.
How will it affect us?
During the Lok Sabha discussion Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, said that people who perform terrorist acts, who raise money for terrorists or terrorist organizations and promote terrorism are equal to terrorists and should be punished as terrorists. He claims that no one will have a different opinion on this. Further he adds-
“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 terrorist. The root of terrorism is the propaganda that is done to spread it, the frenzy that is spread.”
Such an statement by a Union Minister makes it clear that the declaration of individuals as terrorist will take place on the basis of how the government thinks.
For example, “terrorist literature” can be anything that is against the current regime or not supported by the current regime.
Accordingly, anything you or I speak or write can be used against us.
Hence, the government will decide what opinion we want to express and if we don’t do as they wish they can declare us as terrorist.
In today’s time, anything that is against the government is being declared as “anti-national”, institutions with ideologies that do not resonate with the one that the current government has are being declared as “centres for anti-national activities”.
Such instances in the past, prove that through this amendment our freedom of speech and different opinion will be taken away.
It is scary, as any history books which glorifies the opposition party or any article or paper that is against the current government can be declared as “terrorist literature”.
Isn’t different opinion(s) and criticism of the ruling party are crucial parts of democracy?
It seems like we are moving towards an era where government will decide what we read, write, say and eventually control how we think.
Amit Shah also said “we are bringing in laws that will end terrorism in the country and we promise that the government will never misuse it. Terrorism has to be dealt with, with strict laws.”
This statement itself shows that Amit Shah is aware of the fact that this law can be easily misused by the Government. It is just their words that we have to go with.
What if tomorrow a new government is formed? That government made no such promise.
So, if you are someone who likes to logically analyse any of the government’s actions before declaring it good or bad, be careful!
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