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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

[email protected]

Arnab Goswami and his wife were attacked in their vehicle by two bike-borne assailants while driving home from the Republic TV Studios.

In an unfortunate series of events, a familiar face of prime-time television, ‘journalist’ Arnab Goswami was attacked on his way home from the Republic TV Studio. In a video shared by Republic, Arnab claims that two bike-borne assailants tailed his vehicle and attempted to break the windows and threw bottles and ink. The attack is said to have taken place barely 500 metres from Arnab’s residence at around 12:15 A.M.

Arnab was quick to release a video claiming that the attack was coordinated or ordered by the top brass of the Indian National Congress, holding Sonia Gandhi personally accountable for the attack. More information has emerged with Republic stating in a report that “Sources revealed that the Congress workers who carried out the physical attack on Arnab Goswami’s car in the night had been given a lockdown pass to distribute food, amid COVID”. The two assailants were apprehended by Arnab’s security detail and handed over to the Police who took them into custody. However, this only seems to be the start of an epic saga.

Known for his dramatic and loud brand, or rather take on ‘journalism’, Arnab was quick to jump into the blame game and opinions were quickly divided on the matter with some condemning the attack and others crying foul and accusing him of staging it. It was claimed that the ‘Metadata’ of the video indicated that the video was shot hours before and that Ashoke Pandit, President of the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association and Sambit of the Bharatiya Janata Party tweeted about the attack before the first tweet by Republic TV. Both of these claims were thwarted by the fact-checking network, Alt News with evidence.

The Indian National Congress has chosen to distance themselves from the attack with Party general secretary, K.C. Venugopal saying “We are very sure Congressmen have nothing to do with this. This is not our tradition, not our culture. We will not get physical against anybody even those who criticise the Congress,”. However, the two assailants have been identified as Prateek Mishra and Arun Borade, members of the Youth Congress in the Sion-Koliwada Assembly constituency.

The FIR which was filed at the NM Joshi Marg police station states that Mishra and Borade blocked Goswami’s vehicle, banged on the windowpane, and threw ink at it. The two have been booked under Sections 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint) and 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code. In a report, Republic has claimed that the FIR was ‘watered down’ and did not mention the political link of the assailants. Both the Editors Guild of India and Press Council of India released statements condemning the attack and asking for action to be taken. In its statement, the Press Council of India stated: “Every citizen in the country, including a journalist, has the right to express their opinion”. Arnab also faced pushback as petitions were filed in Bombay and Karnataka High Courts, seeking a ban on Republic TV and FIRs registered against him in several States. The Supreme Court, however, granted Arnab three weeks’ protection from any ‘coercive action’ against him by police in a hate case. The Supreme Court is only convening to hear “extremely urgent” cases and many expressed vexation at Arnab’s ‘VIP treatment’.

Perhaps the one agreeable point is that an attack on a journalist is an attack on free-speech and needs to be treated with utmost importance. The following line from the statement by the Press Council of India puts its best – “Violence is not the answer even against bad journalism”. Put against the backdrop of journalists and activists being booked under the sedition law and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and shelved pleas, Arnab may not have it as bad, as he plays ringmaster to the circus that is his ‘Banana Republic’ that is backed by controversy and hate.

 Feature Image Credits: The Free Press Journal

Tashi Dorjay Sherpa

[email protected]