[OPE-L] update on arresting ideas in India

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Tue Oct 24 2006 - 11:18:29 EDT

I received the following from my publisher, Daanish Books, which puts
the recent police actions against them in the appropriate context.
         in solidarity,
Sunita is free, has returned home to her husband, child and friends
safe, even if a bit shaken by her first encounter with the State of
India. On Friday, 20 October when she was narrating the experience
she had with the Chandrapur Police before the press in Delhi, 53
Rashtriya Rifles were forcibly taking away Mohammad Maqbool Dar, a 17
year old boy , yet a child by the definition of the Child Rights
Convention, from his home in Pakharpura, Charar E Sharif in J&K. A
day later the local police found a dead body lying near an army camp
which was later identified as the same Maqbool who was taken by the
RR as they had evidence that he was an "overground Hizb worker who
had a pistol." Lt. Colonel A K Mathur told the press that Maqbool was
taken into custody on Friday evening. "But in the morning he
complained of illness. He was rushed to hospital where he succumbed."
Succumbed? To what?  Mathur is silent on that. Was Maqbool ill when
he was taken away by RR men? And why was he picked up in the first place?

SHO Muhammad Ashraf of the Charar police station is asking the same
question. He tells the Indian Express that only 15 days ago the RR
men had stormed into the house of Maqbool and searched it. Panicked
by this state visit, the parents of Maqbool themselves delivered the
boy to the police station asking Ashraf to check if anything was
wrong with him. The boy was taken into custody, interrogated for four
days and the police found nothing against him. Captain O P Yadav was
called by Ashraf who agreed with the finding of the local police that
the boy was innocent. He was released; his family was assured by the
police not to worry. SHO Ashraf fails to understand what made the RR
to pick him up again and kill him.

Sunita fails to understand why was her bookstall, which she was
setting up at the Deeksha Bhoomi as part of the annual fair held at
Chandrapur every year on 15-16 October to mark the DEEKSHA of Baba
Saheb into Buddhism, raided by the Chandrapur police, why were books
by and on Bhagat Singh, Lenin, a novel by B D Sharma, Che Guevara
confiscated and why was an offence registered against her under
Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment
Act.  Ravindra Kadam , S P, Chandrapur, however, had no doubts in his
minds. When called by the panicky well wishers of Sunita, he very
politely but  firmly informed them that he had strong evidence
against Sunita that she belonged to Jehanabad of Bihar well-known for
being an area of intense Naxal activities, that her first husband was
killed in police encounter, that she did have an extremist
background. When her husband, owner of the Daanish Books told the SP
that he is her husband, that her parents hail from Bhagalpur and she
has nothing to do with Jehanabad, that her first husband is very much
alive and active in Patna, that she was never part of any political
group, that he himself was part of the CPI(ML), Vaskar Nandy Group, a
lawful entity registered with the Election Commission of India, Kadam
informed him with the assurance a SAB-JANANE-WALA state
representative that he knew better, that she was under watch for last
two years, that they had collected evidences sufficient for them to
register an offence against and she would be interrogated on the
basis of their information and then decision on her fate will be taken.

Sunita was interrogated on the evening of 16 October for nearly five
hours. When leaving, the policemen apologized, regretted that she was
put to so much of inconvenience and one of them could not resist from
expressing his admiration for her. He would like to see her again,
not in any official capacity but to understand her viewpoint. In a
very informal, warm tone they told her that their SP wanted her to
have a cup of tea with him in the morning. It is over, we thought and
her husband lit his cigarette to inhale relief. At about one in the
night Sunita was called by the same men, this time extending a very
formal invitation on behalf of the SP to have a cup of tea with him
in the morning . And we instantly knew that it was not over.

Next morning Sunita's stall was surrounded by two oversized vehicles,
40 policemen riding on 20 motorbikes and she was escorted to the
headquarters of the Special Task Force. She was told that they would
prove that she was Sunita from Jehanabad. The interrogation lasted
ten hours. They wanted to know her political views, her definition of
Maoism and she was subjected to piercing questions about her personal
life. All in the National interest, she was told. They told her that
there was no need to spread the ideas of Bhagat Singh now that India
was free, that she should have known better and not displayed the
books by Bhagat Singh, Marx, Lenin in a Naxal-prone area like
Chandarpur. Meanwhile thousands of emails were taking rounds in her
favour, phone calls were being made from all over to the SP and DM.
Sunita was finally let off at 5 in the evening. Exhausted, physically
and emotionally drained . But she was free at last. An undertaking
was extracted from her that she would present herself before the
police whenever she is asked to do so.

Now we know that an offence under section 18 of the unlawful
activities prevention act is very much alive against Sunita which
says, "Whoever conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets,
advises or incites or knowingly facilitates the commission of, a
terrorist act or any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist
act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not
be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for
life, and shall also be liable to fine."
The section is very comprehensive. Police can prove that your
activities were an act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist
act. This becomes lethal when aided by the definition of Unlawful
Activity given in the body of the Act: "unlawful activity", in
relation to an individual or association, means any action taken by
such individual or association (whether by committing an act or by
words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible
representation or otherwise),-(i) which is intended, or supports any
claim, to bring about, on any ground whatsoever, the cession of a
part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the
territory of India from the Union, or which incites any individual or
group of individuals to bring about such cession or secession; or
(ii) which disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India ; or (iii) which
causes or is intended to cause disaffect-ion against India."

Cannot it be proved that Sunita was selling the books which contained
word which could be used by the Maoists in their campaign against the
state? Everybody felt so offended by the attack on a publisher. It is
claimed that by this act of the Chandrapur police, rights to publish,
read and write have been violated. But would writers, publishers ever
see a connection between the Act under which Sunita has been booked
the ACT which shield those RR men who picked up Maqbool Dar from his
home on 20 October as they suspected that he was a member of a
terrorist outfit? The relation between Sunita's freedom and Maqbool's
death becomes stark when we realize that the Act under which Sunita
was declared an offender is being presented as the alternative to the
Act, AFSPA, 1958, which is used in J&K and the whole of the NE region
to search premises, arrest people and even shoot to kill them on
slightest suspicion. The UAPA is applicable all over India. AFSPA can
be applied after an area has been declared as a disturbed area.
Sunita is free , Maqbool is dead. Does it give the Indian state a
reason to feel safer than earlier, more secure?

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela.
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