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Democratic voices of dissent implicated, efforts are on to silence, criminalise dissent

By Rajiv Shah/ Concern for increasing police crackdown on anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) activists appears to be taking considerable heartburn among wider circles. This was reflected in a press statement jointly issued by Syeda Hameed, former member, Planning Commission; Prashant Bhushan, eminent lawyer; Kanhaiya Kumar, former president, Jawarlal Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union; Kavita Krishnan, politbureau member, CPIML; Pamela Philipose, senior journalist; and Nandita Narain, former president, Delhi University Teachers’ Association.
Pointing towards “criminalising and silencing dissent”, the statement talks of “collective anguish at the sheer brazenness with which the Delhi police has turned the investigation into the February violence in Delhi into an inquisition of the anti-CAA protests.”
Issued following the arrest of Umar Khalid, a former JNU students leader, the statement says, he was “taken into custody and booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and several other criminal sections, thereby adding to the list of anti-CAA protestors languishing behind bars. He is among the soaring young voices who have risen up in defense of the Constitution, at the service of truth, and are today prisoners of conscience.”
Pointing towards tragic loss of 53 human lives, assault on property and livelihoods, and attacks on places of worship, the statement says, “In the last few months we have collectively witnessed the same dereliction of duty by the police. We all wanted a fair investigation into the Delhi violence, but what the Delhi police has resorted to is a sinister plan to brand, target, frame and arrest all those voices that dared to speak up against the unconstitutional and immoral CAA.”
“The ruling party has resorted to what it does best. It has deployed the police, a pliant media and all the draconian laws at its disposal to unleash a vicious witch-hunt, particularly against young minds. They do not want them to dream of an inclusive, pluralist, egalitarian India”, the statement says.
It adds, “The real culprits – who in broad day light threatened to clear the protest sites by force, or those who came with guns into the protest sites, or those who chanted provocative and violent slogans – remain free.”
Pointing out that “democratic voices of dissent are being gradually implicated”, including “students, academicians, artists, politicians and activists”, the statement demands “an immediate end to this outrageous investigation that is being conducted with prejudice and malafide intent”, seeking “immediate release of activists booked under the UAPA”, and a judicial enquiry “to punish the real culprits and ensure justice for the Delhi violence.”

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