New Delhi: Opposition leaders from several parties including Shashi Tharoor, Kanimozhi and Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday expressed solidarity with activist Stan Swamy, who has been booked under the UAPA, and demanded that the stringent law be repealed.
They also urged the public to break its silence on the government's efforts to "chip away the rights of the people".
The NIA arrested 83-year-old Swamy on October 8 in the Bhima Koregaon case. Activists and political leaders have been condemning Swamy's arrest, saying he is in jail despite being a patient of Parkinson's disease and suffering from other health problems.
Speaking at a press conference organised by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren claimed that the government was trying to silence the voices of the marginalised communities.
In a video message, he alleged that under the present government, the country's unity, integrity and democratic structures were under attack.
"The NDA government sitting in the centre today is silencing the voices of those speaking for the adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised groups, the non-BJP ruled states are being harassed, the various constitutional mechanisms of our country are being weakened today by different groups and organisations for its own political benefit under a hidden agenda," he claimed.
"It is forcing us to ponder about where the country is headed. It crossed all limits today when someone like Stan Swamy was arrested. He is someone who has been working in Jharkhand for years, in the remote faraway villages, wandering in the jungles, just so that the adivasis, Dalits and minority populations here could be reached. This is extremely disappointing. Stan Swamy is also suffering from many diseases," Soren said.
He appealed to all political parties to come together and oppose the growing attacks by the BJP-led central government on civil liberties, federalism and democracy.
When the country is subjected to anarchy, when Hitlerism is practiced at some places in the country, the opposition should not hesitate to stand together, irrespective of which political party they belong to, Soren said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury as well as the DMK's Kanimozhi urged civil society groups and the public to break their silence over the "government's attacks on the rights of the people".
"Today we have to make a decision as political parties, as the whole society, whether to accept what is happening in silence or say this is enough and fight them together," Kanimozhi said in the video conference.
"If we accept this, then in a few years we will not see a democratic India that we know. Every law that this government has passed has chipped away the rights of the people. It's time to break the silence," she said.
A total of 16 people have been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in the case, which include three cultural activists of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Ghogre and Jyoti Jagtap; thinkers, writers and academics Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Shoma Sen, Hany Baby; and lawyers, Sudha Bharadwaj, Surendra Gadling, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, who are all also trade unionists, and activists.
Activists Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson are also in prison.
Yechury said on the lines of the Bhima-Koregaon case, in the Delhi riots case too the perpetrators are going scot free while the survivors are being further victimised.
He pointed out that it is not a simple question of amending the UAPA. The entire UAPA law has to be repealed, along with sedition, since these laws are open to absolute misuse, he asserted.
"The UAPA has been grossly misused. Like POTA, this law has to be removed from our statute book. However, this is not the issue of just one law. All these draconian laws are being used to silence all dissent against the government," Yechury said.
"These arrests are not isolated cases. These are part of an agenda to establish a rabidly theocratic Hindutva Rashtra which was their plan from the beginning. This cannot be accepted. We must break this silence. For evil to succeed, the good only requires to be silent. People need to restore secular democracy," he alleged.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said Swamy deserves "respect and support", not jail term.
Tharoor said he was convinced that "no Jesuit will indulge in any violence or entice anyone towards violence".
"This must stop. I appeal to the government to be fair and at least grant him bail. We stand in solidarity with Stan Swamy," he said.
D Raja, General Secretary, CPI, reminded everyone that during the Bhima Koregaon violence, thousands of Dalits were not only attacked but they were also charged with violence in hundreds of cases.
He said the CPI has opposed UAPA from the time it was introduced, as well as pointed out the dangers of right-wing extremist organizations which he claimed are trying to convert a democratic nation into a theocratic nation when other parties only talk about left-wing extremism.
He also requested organisations and political parties to stand up for DU Professor G N Saibaba, in prison over charges of allegedly having Maoist links, as he is being denied bail despite being 90 per cent disabled.
"The central government is a ruthless government and does not believe in Constitution and democracy as opposed to B R Ambedkar's vision and values. The larger fight is to call out the communal, fascist ideology of RSS and BJP," he said.
Let the Truth be known. If you read VB and like VB, please be a VB Supporter and Help us deliver the Truth to one and all.
Bengaluru, Nov 30: An internal assessment of the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens called 'Sakala' has put Mandya on the top while Bengaluru Urban stood last among the districts in providing services to people within the stipulated time.
Launched in April 2012, there are presently 1025 services related to 98 departments guaranteed under the Sakala scheme which are provided to the applicants within the time limit.
Eight years after the launch of the scheme, the Sakala department carried out the assessment of its performance.
The assessment revealed that 22.92 crore applications were received since the launch of the scheme, out of which 22.85 crore applications were disposed of.
Based on the number of applications received and disposed of, the department came out with the ranking.
Announcing the ranking, Karnataka Minister for Sakala, S Suresh Kumar told reporters on Monday that Mandya, Chikkamagaluru and Chikkaballapura are among the top three districts in providing services under the Sakala scheme within the time limit.
On the other hand, Bengaluru urban, Bidar and Raichur are among the least ranked districts in providing services.
"This assessment provides an opportunity to the respective districts to improve their citizen-oriented services," Kumar, who also holds the primary and secondary education portfolio, said.
The rankings were announced as the state launched the Sakala week during which period, the departments will have to create awareness among masses.
The Minister cited three reasons for the poor performance of Sakala, which are not accepting the applications, rejection of applications and delay in providing the service.
He said people do not know that there are appellants in each department where people can approach and appeal against the rejection and delay in providing services.
Kumar directed the deputy commissioners of the district to conduct a meeting of the Sakala Coordination Committees to analyse the performance of Sakala scheme.