‘Un­de­clared Emer­gency can only be fought by peo­ple’s coali­tions’

Ac­tivists, friends, fam­i­lies of those ar­rested un­der UAPA speak out at Peo­ple’s Con­ven­tion

The Free Press Journal - - MUMBAI - STAFF RE­PORTER

The Peo­ple’s Con­ven­tion against Un­de­clared Emer­gency held a meet­ing at the Dadar Matunga Cul­tural Cen­tre, where mem­bers spoke against the im­po­si­tion of the dra­co­nian Un­law­ful Ac­tiv­i­ties (Preven­tion) Act and de­manded the re­lease of ac­tivists charged un­der them. The meet­ing was or­gan­ised by Mum­bai Rises to Save Democ­racy, a col­lec­tive of 40 civil so­ci­ety, demo­cratic rights or­gan­i­sa­tions and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions across Ma­ha­rash­tra.

Se­nior jour­nal­ist Nikhil Wa­gle said, “To­mor­row, if I am ar­rested, it will not be for be­ing a jour­nal­ist but I will be charged and ar­rested for be­ing a Maoist,” he said. He high­lighted how po­lice and state are crack­ing down on voices of dis­sent.

Lalsu Soma No­goti, ad­vo­cate, for­est rights ac­tivist, zila parishad mem­ber from Bham­ra­gad, Gad­chi­roli, de­manded the re­lease of Ma­hesh Raut, the TISS ex-stu­dent who gave up a cushy life to work for rights of adi­va­sis and marginalised, spoke on the oc­ca­sion. “Ma­hesh was very com­mit­ted and ded­i­cated to the rights of adi­va­sis teach­ing them their rights un­der the pro­vi­sions of For­est Rights Act (FRA), 2006,” said No­goti.

Nagoti added, “The gram sab­has in Gad­chi­roli have passed a res­o­lu­tion ask­ing the gov­ern­ment for his im­me­di­ate re­lease.”

The rel­a­tives of the fam­i­lies of the ac­tivists ar­rested since June also high­lighted the way the ac­tivists were termed as ‘ur­ban Nax­als’ and have been kept be­hind bars un­der se­vere charges.

“Suren­dra used to help the poor and take up the cases of the marginalised,” Mi­nal Gadling, wife of ad­vo­cate Suren­dra Gadling, said at the meet­ing. Ad­vo­cate Gadling used to take cases of marginalised adi­va­sis who were charged for be­ing Maoists and iron­i­cally, faces a sim­i­lar charge to­day.

Sa­gar Gon­salves, son of exMum­bai Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor and ac­tivist Ver­non Gon­salves, de­scribed the events of Au­gust 28, when their home was raided and his fa­ther was ar­rested as a déjà vu ex­pe­ri­ence. “Once again there was a raid by the po­lice for six hours and I saw the cy­cle re­peat­ing like the last time. The first time round, I was 12 and felt help­less. Even now it was the same,” said Sa­gar. He added, “I am no more un­der the il­lu­sion that only bad peo­ple go to jail.”

Ab­dul Wahid Sheikh of the In­no­cence Net­work spoke about how UAPA stands not for ‘Un­law­ful’ but Law­ful Ac­tiv­i­ties Preven­tion Act, as it is used to tar­get those fight­ing for jus­tice.

“Six months ago, I was shar­ing this very stage with ad­vo­cate Gadling. Our coun­try is not demo­cratic and sec­u­lar. We live in a po­lice state as the po­lice can ar­rest any­one at any­time,” he said.

Ad­vo­cate Mi­hir De­sai of the Peo­ple’s Union for Civil Lib­er­ties pro­vided an un­der­stand­ing of how the law is “used” by the po­lice.

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