An overview over previously amended UAPA, aimed to counter terrorists, has resulted in terrorised dissidents instead.

Free speech, political dissention, and even mild criticism, might get anyone designated as ‘terrorist’ by the Centre, ever since Home Minister Amit Shah, in a sovereign state, proposed the amended version of an already ‘draconian law’ called, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and it somewhat suits the ‘rishta vohi soch nayi’ narrative with its uncanny resemblance to the Rowlatt Act of 1919 set by the colonisers to criminalise protests.

What is UAPA?

In 1967, UAPA was passed for the first time in the parliament, and it gave the entitlement to the government to designate any ‘organisation’ as ‘unlawful.’ It further defined and criminalised what it seemed as unlawful. However in 2004, Manmohan Singh led Congress further amended it without getting it scrutinised by the special committee. The government was disposed with more power, defined terrorism, and could declare any organisation as ‘terrorist.’ It also empowered the police with enhanced power of interrogation, which was often abused as a harassment tool.

What does the 2019 amendment say?
The recent changes proposed by the Home Minister Amit Shah, which were passed in the Lok Sabha owning to heavy NDA majority and smooth relations in Rajya Sabha, allowed the interference of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to mess with the federal system, and most importantly declare any ‘individual’ as opposed to what was ‘organisation’ as ‘terrorist.’ This too was passed sans the scrutiny of the select committee.

Who are the categorically individual terrorists?

The Home Minister made it very clear that individuals who participate, fund, or engage in raising funds for terrorist activities, shall be treated along the lines of this act.

Most importantly he said, “those are terorists who attempt to plant terrorist literature and terorist theory in the minds of the young, guns do not give rise to terrorism, the root of it is the propaganda that is done to spread it.”

The Problematic Aspects

At no point does the law define what is terrorist literature and theory, for all one may have a copy of The Communist Manifesto and the Centre can use that as evidence.

Also what is the urgent need of the government to go after individuals specifically, when under chapter four of the same act provides for the accused to be prosecuted and punished if found guilty by the courts? Perhaps it’s that ‘if’ they want to win over, by curtailing a person’s right to get bail, or proper redressal. On average 75% cases under UAPA ended in acquittal over three years ending 2016 as per Business Standards’ analysis of NCRB data. It only raises skepticism if the Centre is trying to overstep this trend by removing the redressal system all and for once.

Who all are booked under this so far?
Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masoor Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. However, individuals with no organisation backing who were arrested post the amendment included Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Jahan, Kashmiri journalist Gowhar Geelani, peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, student leaders, Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar and Umar Kahlid.


There’s scope of some appeal in this contentious law which would take minimum 100 days and maximum uncertain days, for the heeding to go through the Home Ministry which itself labelled the accused as terrorist in the first place, and review committee, until then, one is a terrorist until proven otherwise, without grant to bail, or lawyer, and it’s all because the State with enhanced centralised power in a democracy simply believed so without any evidence.

Featured Image Credits: The Quint

Umaima Khanam

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“….. death of D.E.M.O’Cracy, mourned by his wife T. Ruth, his son L.I. Bertie, and his daughters- Faith, Hope and Justice”- read an anonymous advertisement in The Times of India soon after the declaration of Emergency.

Back in 1975, the Opposition, led by Jayaprakash Narayan organized a nationwide satyagraha against the then Prime Minister- Mrs Indira Gandhi, the response: Article 352 stamped over the political fabric of India, a stamp that sealed voices but not dissent. The fumes of Emergency engulfed the 25th day of June in 1975.

The Emergency brought about a buffet of special powers, from custodial deaths to press censorship; all cuisines were available, with draconian measures as the suggested garnishing. The buffet lasted for two years i.e. till 1977. But an irony- the common people failed to savour democracy for a long time.

When George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,” no one could fathom that Orwell was the Nostradamus of Indian Politics, and a basic democratic hue. Liberty would have dust patted over it. The Constitution’s claims of imparting Freedom of Speech and Expression, transitioned into a lie as the leaders and workers of the Opposition parties were arrested early in the morning. Furthermore, protests, strikes, and public agitations were disallowed. Strangulation of the Constitution had begun.

Media houses underwent a serious backlash as journalism came under the radar. Prior approval for all material to be published by newspaper was now a prerequisite. This was regarded as the violation of Article 19, while some defended the stance on Article 19(2). The demarcation and categorisation of events and facts remain a personal choice; however, the cutting off of electricity to all newspaper presses at 2:00 a.m. on 26th June 1975 is a fact to behold. The Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act of 1976 was another wave that hit the media. While the living document was being moulded according to events, dissent remained pristine – magazines like the Seminar and Mainstream chose not to submit to censorship and hence, closed down. Eminent newspapers like the Indian Express and the Statesman left blank spaces where news items had been censored.

On April 1976, the Constitution was virtually vandalized. The Supreme Court accepted the Government’s plea, which gave way to the Government to take away the Right to Life and Liberty. Preventive detentions were turned into arbitrary tools, custodial deaths and torture surfaced and resurfaced. Sanjay Gandhi’s involvement in demolitions and forced sterilisation were not merely controversial but unconstitutional. The common man suffered for days and the importance of civil liberties imparted through the Constitution became evident.

The Shah Commission of 1977 translated as a litmus test to the excesses. The magnitude of damage to the Constitution was deciphered. The Commission estimated that nearly one lakh, eleven thousand, people were arrested under preventive detention laws. It mentioned that the General Manager of Delhi Power Supply Corporation received verbal orders from the office of the Lt. Governor of Delhi to cut electricity to all newspaper agencies, restoration of electricity paved way two to three days after the censorship apparatus was set up. Displacement, relocation and sterilization scarred many lives.

After a long wait, 1977 reopened the gates of democracy. It was not only a moment to rejoice but a moment to reflect upon the past. Not only did citizens realize the value of the Constitution but also unravelled its ambiguities. Emergency was imposed on the grounds of ‘internal disturbance’ which was an enigmatic statement in itself. Emergency could now be proclaimed on the pretext of ‘armed rebellion’. It brought upon the realisation that the Constitution is a living document, and yet, has flaws dawned upon the citizens of the Nation. The 42nd Amendment was a shockwave as it was intended to be intransient in nature. The chaos and anarchy of 1975 amalgamated into the ‘first revision test’ of the Constitution that the Nation took. And similar to every surprise test, shock and realisation came hand-in-hand.

Image Credits: Countercorrents

Priyanshi Banerjee

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The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief statement that highlights the values and principles of the Constitution and our Country. How far have we strayed from it though?

Thanks to the very first page of our NCERT Books, we are all familiar with the Preamble. Although the Preamble is a concept borrowed from the American Constitution, it highlights the essence of what came out of the Constituent Assembly debates. The debates concluded in making India, a Nation based on the principles of social justice and democracy.

Indian nationalism had always been inclusive, overcoming conflicting social identities for the overall development of the Nation. The Constitution laid down a strong foundation for a newly independent Nation, following the principles of social justice and inclusivity, and promoting the ideology of social liberalism. Despite this strong foundation, it seems somewhere along the line we all deviated from these principles.

The Preamble starts with the words Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, and Republic. While India’s position as a socialist country is open to question, it is no secret that India has deviated from the belief of secularism. What had started way back through identity politics was only heightened during the Babri Masjid demolition and the Gujarat riots. The openly inflammatory speeches, mob-lynching, and the recently passed Citizenship (Amendment) Act are proofs all around us. On paper, India is also the world’s largest democracy. But can a Country, whose Government remains unavailable to questions and criticism on its policies and statements by its citizens, be called democratic?

The first thing the Preamble promises is Justice (social, economic, and political). Social Justice stands for eliminating all forms of exploitation and the presence of socially privileged classes from the society. But, exploitation of women, minorities, and the poor exists all around us- in manual labour, in manual scavenging, and in the very concept of working class. Economic justice stands for equitable distribution of wealth and economic equality, but recent reports say that the richest one per cent of the Country’s population, now holds 73 per cent of the Country’s wealth. Fortunately, the basic rights of universal adult suffrage and equal political participation are still secure.

The next thing the Preamble promises is Liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship). The lack of this principle in practice is glaringly obvious. Thought and expression are accepted, only when it conforms to the ideals of the Government. Labels of ‘anti-national’ and ‘urban Naxal’ are quick to be attached to anyone and anything that raises a strong argument against the Government. Unsurprisingly, India’s rank on World Press Freedom Index is 140 out of 180. While the liberty of belief, faith, and worship do exist, believing in different Gods has now become a cause of enmity.

The third thing the Preamble promises is Equality (of status and opportunity). But, there’s discrimination on the basis of class, caste, religion, sex, gender, and colour in our daily lives. There is an outrageous gap between the privileged and the less privileged classes of society. While the Country also guarantees us, Rule of Law, a careful look at just the recent events in the Country speak more than enough. George Orwell’s famous words in his book Animal Farm, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others,” are intimidatingly accurate in the context of the country. The last thing the Preamble promises is Fraternity (assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation). Fraternity, here, refers to a feeling of ‘brotherhood’, a brotherhood which gets clouded with communalism and casteism too often. Although, seeing the solidarity among the universities across the Nation against violence and police brutality in the university campuses, we hopefully haven’t diverged much from this principle.

Every day, it seems like this Country moves further away from light, and these complex terms- Justice, Equality, and Democracy- lose meaning to become mere ritualistic words. In these testing political times, we must not forget what our Constitution and our Country stand for. In these political times, we must not forget what we stand for.


Image Credits: Aditi Gutgutia for DU Beat

Satviki Sanjay

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26th November every year is celebrated as the Law Day in India. With its terminology now changed to it being referred as the Constitution Day, here is a piece explaining its significance and bringing ahead some interesting facts about it.

This year marks the 70th commemoration year of adoption of the Constitution of India, which was adopted on 26th November 1949 by the then the Constituent Assembly of India.

The day holds its importance for various reasons, one of the major ones being to bring into public notice the importance of the constitution and others being to spread the thoughts and ideas of various personalities that helped hoping the constitution.

Talking about the day being previously referred to as the ‘National Law Day’, here are some of the interesting laws that still exist in India, which will leave you surprised!

  • The Aircraft Act, 1934

According to the Aircraft Act of 1934, an aircraft has been defined as “any machine which can take support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air”. Along with this, it mentions of how “balloons, whether fixed or free, kites, airships, flying machines and gliders” come under the bracket and umbrella of being defined as an ‘aircraft’. The Act also talks about how the permission of government is needed in order to use, possess, operate, import or export any aircraft. Thus, along with these lines, it becomes illegal to fly kites and balloons in India prior having a permission and clearance from the Government of India!

  • No Uniform Drinking Age

In India, there exists no common drinking age for the people. With the age bar being 21 years in Tamil Nadu, to 18 in Goa and 25 in Maharashtra, there isn’t a consensus on which age is the ideal legal age for drinking. Making the matters all the more confusing, the age bar differences create more trouble with a different age being set for soft drinks and a different for hard drinks!

  • East Punjab Agricultural Pests, Diseases and Noxious Weeds act, 1949

Delhites, be aware! The above mentioned act is still functional in Delhi. Under this (quirky and indeed very unique!) act, any person who is above the age of fourteen and is considered fit can be summoned by the government through beating drums in order to fight locusts!

  • Treasure Trove Act, 1878

As per the Indian Treasure Trove Act of 1878, if any person discovers anything which holds a value greater than INR 10, then the amount belongs to “Her Majesty” (yes you read that right!) the amount/money/item must be reported. If one fails to do so then the person is liable to punishment, be sent to jail for not reporting it.

At the end of this article, one observes how the colonial hangover still clutches the Indian Laws and legal systems, decades after independence. It is high time now to have laws for the contemporary India, and do away with the ones the British created for us, centuries ago. A new India needs new laws for a better, brighter and beautiful future.

Feature Image Credits: Quora

Amrashree Mishra

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“I am Indian. Then why is the government sending me into Exile?’, ‘Can the world’s largest democracy endure another five years of Modi Government’? A writer puts forth two questions for the world, but perhaps one is the answer to another question itself. 

“A citizen’s right to liberty is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. It is a fundamental right granted under the Constitution and can’t be infringed upon by the state,” as declared by the Supreme Court of India in the Prashant Kanojia case, who was allegedly detained by the UP Police for making remarks against the State’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. 

The aforementioned lines were stated by Justice(s) Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi bench and certainly provides a sacred safeguard to the citizens and their rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution of India against the state that may attempt to vandalise the freedom of expression and establish a ‘fascist’ regime in the country. But perhaps the Government has paved a way for itself to pursue its objectives of a rashtra, suited to their ideas and philosophies by revoking the very status of this ‘citizenship’ itself and abstaining the people of being one in the first place. The National Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is anyway extremely kind towards a specific section of the society, the disavowal of riter Aatish Ali Taseer’s Indian Nationality is more than an extension of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. 

Raised in the national capital by his Sikh mother and acclaimed journalist Tavleen Singh, Taseer rose to prominence with his debut Novel, “Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands” which can be seen as an introspective review of his status as a Muslim. He may even be recalled as the person who hosted Sir Salman Rushdie, when he returned to India after a long exile, but he will mostly be remembered as the author of TIME magazine’s May 2019 cover story that referred to Prime Minister Modi as ‘India’s Divider in Chief’, ahead of the 2019 General Elections. 

Following the release of the story, the entire social media was set ablaze, with responses from both the sides taking stark turns. The Modi Supporters started raising the issue of Taseer’s parenthood, especially with regard to his father who was a Pakistani politician; given our contempt for the country and Aatish’s identity, the claims were preferred by many and was furthered by ensuring that Taseer bewails his acts. But rather Taseer was empowered more than ever challenging the fanatic frenzy. 

According to Taseer, he received a letter from the Home Ministry, Government of India, stating that they are reviewing his Overseas Citizenship of India status in September this year. To this, he duly responded by resisting against the claims made by the Government of India within 24 hours. But it was only on November 7, when the government actually abolished Taseer’s citizenship leaving him in certain ‘exile’. 

What is interesting here is that all these years Taseer has lived in this country without ever being questioned about his citizenship. Although the recent developments in the country have reviewed the idea of nationalism, something of this kind is really concerning and hints towards a state that perhaps cannot accommodate dissent in anyway. 

While the government says that its revoking of Taseer’s status is solely because he did hide the fact that his father was a Pakistani, the father who is being referred here is assassinated Pakistan Governor Salman Taseer, who was nowhere in Aatish’s early life, and is a relation which further receded away because of their distinct nationalities. 

While the government seemed adamant in their stance, Taseer has now been joined by more than 260 writers, journalists and artists, including Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Adichie, Perumal Murugan and Amitav Ghosh, who have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reviewing its decision to repeal writer Aatish Taseer’s Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) and allow an uninterrupted travel for him in India. This has brought the Government in a screened position, and the revocation will now have larger implications in the academic domain with the status of people of such political sagacity under question. The story has now garnered worldwide support and coverage and hence the Government needs to be extremely meticulous in its decision for the best of Taseer. 

Feature Image Credits: Aatish Taseer via Instagram

Faizan Salik

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In a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, the judicial body has passed governance wherein no political party can conjure votes on the foundation of religion, caste and creed.

The verdict by the apex court was announced as a result of deliberations by a seven-member bench and was a follow-up to a petition filed in 1996. Seeking to retain the secular ethos of the Constitution, it takes into account the vague nature of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act (1951) which states that appeals made by candidates on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language would be banned. The ruling is sought to shed clarity on the wordings, so as the conclusion to be a wholesome ban on the use of religion in campaigning practices. This shall have rippling effects on the forthcoming state elections coined to take place in UP, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur; three out of five states where caste politics is a major factor in soliciting alliances and votes.

In its functional representation, a wall is being endeavored to be built between state and religion. The Constitution ascribes India as a secular country, and this move pushes the foundational strength of that claim. It can be understood that by the rule of extension, elections should also be viewed as a secular practice. Thus, the aim was to embellish the secular character of India; a country which is characterised by its confluence of diverse backgrounds.

This judicial activism aiming to fill the gap between one of the laws can be deemed promising, yet is a long throw from being effectively implemented to becoming successful. Firstly, there is the argument of Free Speech according to which discussions on religion and caste are constitutionally protected and cannot be restricted. Thus, any party genuinely working towards the escalation of minority classes will find itself in a predicament. Secondly, the law has existed before, and only a certain aspect of it has been modified. However, its working remains inadequate since Independence. Thirdly, the implementation is a major hindrance which needs to be entangled. Appealing for votes by pulling the banned strings is not done in the open, and is subtle in approaching voters which may prove to be hard to monitor. Fourthly, this controversial move can prove to be an advantage for BJP as it lobbies for Hindus and Hindutva particularly, which the Supreme Court in 1995 ruled as ‘a way of life’ and not a religion, and thus handing them a rabbit’s escape.

The apex court’s ruling is plausible for national reasons but unfortunately is also rigged with loopholes which might result in it being one of the forgotten laws of the land.

Image Credits: International Business Times

Saumya Kalia

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