PUCL Bulletin, August 2004
– By Pushkar Raj
[See also, Anti-Emergency Day, June 2002. Click]
A meeting was organised by PUCL-Delhi on 25 of June ‘04 to mark the day of imposition of emergency in 1975. The meeting was held at Rajendra Bhawan and was presided over by Prof. Abu Bakar, the Chairperson of Delhi Minorities Commission.
In his opening note Pushkar Raj, General Secretary PUCL-Delhi said that the outgoing government had done a great harm to the civil liberties environment in the country. It was amply clear by the Gujarat riots and its policies in the area of education and economy. What was more, it had tried to change the discourse on human rights and civil liberties. Encounter killings were treated as something normal and whoever tried questioning them was dubbed as anti-national. It becomes incumbent on all civil liberties groups like us that we try to pressurise the present government to reverse the wrong so committed and do not become complacent in view of the change in the regime.
Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar lamented that his generation’s dream of independent India has come to a naught. He further added that what is dangerous in the contemporary India is that the middle class is getting Hinduised which is directly effecting the plural character of our society and nation. In retaliation Muslims are also getting fanaticised and the chain if not broken will disintegrate the country. According to him change of government would do a little if people were not vigilant because congress leadership is anti-BJP for political convenience not due to conviction.
Rajindar Sachar, former National President of PUCL pointed out that the Congress Governments have been as guilty of violation of the human rights as BJP governments. Civil liberties are absolute. They are not relative. The Congress Election Manifesto states that POTA would be repealed. It needs just an ordinance to do so. But why are they not doing it, he asked.
Kumar Sanjay Singh, the young journalist referred to the fact that in the constituent assembly debate only four people had opposed Special Armed Forces Act. According to him the penchant for draconian laws is not new. But as the popular participation in elections has increased and formerly marginalized people are getting empowered after early seventies more anti-people laws are getting enacted. He expressed his distress over the appointment of governors in some sensitive States who are former IB or Police officers.
N.D. Pancholi, Vice President of PUCL-Delhi called for repeal of POTA and Armed Forces Special Powers Act. He appealed to the like-minded organisations to come together and pressurise the government to repeal these anti-people acts as early as possible.
Satyendra Ranjan, former general secretary of PUCL-Delhi pointed out to the irony of the fact that the victory of those who imposed emergency is being celebrated with the hope that the civil liberties would be better protected in their regime. He recalled the fact that earlier there would be spontaneous reaction to any violation of human rights and organisations and people would gather in large numbers to protest against such acts. But for last some years civil society has become much divided of which the state has taken full advantage.
Vijay Pratap recalled the emergency days and said that it rejuvenated the young people of our period and connected us with our values. Civil society groups should create new values with the changing times. Now we need to respond to the need of the hour and create new slogans like ‘dignity to dalit and security to minorities’.
Aijaz Ahmed Aslam stressed that the need of the hour is to ensure rule of law and justice to the people. Religion is not for walls to be built but to demolish them and reduce the distance between the people.
Aurobindo Ghosh lamented that the civil society is getting marginalised. The civil society groups must raise the issues concerning the large number of people and there ought to be a debate on the basic needs of the people.
Mr. Kikon from Naga People Union of Human Rights said that the basic civil liberty rights of Nagas would never be there so long the Armed Forces Special Act continues in the operation. He regretted that even the Supreme Court has turned down their plea to repeal the mentioned act. He exhorted PUCL to join their campaign to repeal the said Act.
Maulana Shafi Munis appealed that those with the sectarian view do not get elected.
Prof. Abu Baker in his concluding remarks regretted that the ground level work of organisations like PUCL has declined. He expressed the hope that a serious thought would be given on the matter. If we want to revive the spirit of protection of civil liberties then we will have to go back to the people, he opined. He appealed for a campaign for the law against genocide.
A large number of other people also expressed their views in the meetings.
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