Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Ballad of Sambhaji Bhagat

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The Ballad of Sambhaji Bhagat

sambhaji

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Bombay HC- A warning and guide to the police in all states.

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Digital Maoism

 

Prabhat Sharan, Deccan Herald

 

The Bombay high court’s observations, while  granting bail to four persons who were accused of being Maoists by the anti-terrorist squad (ATS) of the state, should be a warning and guide to the police in all states.

 

It is well-known that the police foist unconvincing charges on people, harass them, rob them of their freedom and take them to court. Many times it is calling a man a dog and trying to hang him.

 

To be found with a copy of the Communist Manifesto or any other work that advocates social change, to write a poem or stage a play that criticises  injustice and iniquities was enough reason to be locked up by the police many years ago. The experience of the street theatre group which highlighted the pervasiveness of corruption and inequalities in society shows that the situation has hardly changed.

 

The artistes of the theatre group , Kabir Kala Manch were booked under the strict provisions of the anti-terrorism law for alleged allegiance to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and for inciting violence to subvert the state, and some of them have been in jail for over two years. The evidence produced by the ATS is their possession of books available in the market and the literature has not been banned. It is possible that many of the ideas which the police found criminal could be found in text books also.

 

Castigating the police, the court has said that it is not wrong to raise social issues and advocate a change of the social or political system. Many thinkers, social activists and leaders of the past and present could be considered guilty and criminal if there was a sweeping ban on demands for a better society.

 

Corruption, poverty, social injustice and the oppression of the weakest sections of society are  vital issues that need answers and solutions. The inability of the state to address these issues and improve the social and economic status of the people in the margins should be of concern to all citizens.

 

While these issues are raised in public the answer of the state should not be to come down with a heavy hand on those who do so. It is not just a matter of freedom of expression but of what to express and work for. It is not the first time that courts have made it clear that faith in an ideology is not a crime. Unfortunately it has to be said again and again.

 

 

 

Ultra vires regulations- does association with a banned outfit make you a TERRORIST?

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SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu , fEB 22, 2013

Mere association with a banned outfit or studying its literature does not tantamount to being a terrorist, says a recent Bombay High Court judgement

Freedom of speech:Sheetal Sathe, lead singer of Kabir Kala Manch.

Freedom of speech:Sheetal Sathe, lead singer of Kabir Kala Manch.

The definition of a ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ has been a major topic of continuous debate in India especially in recent months. Can a person collecting and studying literature of a banned party be defined as a terrorist? Can a song with revolutionary lyrics — despising social inequality — be called an act of terror? Or is it that quoting Mao Tse Tung or Karl Marx in a street theatre be defined as a terrorist ploy?

A recent judgement by the Bombay High Court has stated that such acts are not terrorism. Even the judge went on to say, “… the expression of views to the effect that a change in the social order can be brought about only by a revolution would not amount to any offence.”

The judgement — delivered while granting bail to four members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a Pune-based cultural group of Dalit protest singers — has been lauded by social activists and lawyers in Chhattisgarh and other States where a large number of tribals are languishing in jail allegedly for participating in Maoist rallies or providing food to the rebels. The KKM members were arrested and booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) allegedly for being members of the banned CPI-Maoist.

The judgement by Justice Abhay Thipsey has specifically questioned Section 20 of UAPA which penalises members of ‘terrorist gangs or organisations involved in terrorist acts’ with imprisonment for life. Quoting extensively from several verdicts of the Indian and U.S. Supreme Courts, the judgement says that Section 20 of UAPA challenges Article 19 of the Indian Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech, right to form unions and assemble peacefully.

According to the judge, KKM members were arrested for practising rights guaranteed by Article 19. Moreover, the same section of IPC, 120B, which was used against Afzal Guru for allegedly abetting a criminal conspiracy, was also used against KKM members for associating with a banned outfit.

Deconstructing various sections of IPC and UAPA used to frame charges against KKM members, Justice Thipsey said, “Mere membership of a banned organisation will not incriminate a person unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence,” quoting, inter alia , from a Supreme Court judgement.

Justice Thipsey added if “passive membership” of a banned party is criminally liable, then parts of UAPA may become ultra vires . “It is very clear from the observations made by the Supreme Court that if Section 20 were to be interpreted in that manner (passive membership as active terrorism), it would at once be considered as violative of the provisions of Article 19 of the Constitution of India, and would be struck down as ultra vires ,” page 37 of the judgement stated.

Justice Thipsey has also expressed “surprise” that KKM members were arrested for organising “street plays wherein social issues such as the eradication of corruption, social inequality, widening gap between the rich and the poor, the exploitation of poor, etc.” are addressed. “There is nothing wrong in raising these social issues,” he said.

“The same views (regarding social inequality) are expressed by several national and eminent leaders and the expression for these views cannot brand a person as a member of CPI-Maoist. On the contrary, such a reasoning would indicate that these issues, which are real and important, are not addressed to by anyone else, except the CPI-Maoist, which would mean that the other parties or social organisations are indifferent to these problems faced by the society,” the judgement said. Advocating the teachings of Karl Marx or “having some faith in the Maoist philosophy” is also not criminally liable, said the judge. The judgement has also emphasised that possessing of banned literature of an outlawed political party (CPI-Maoist in this case) is not an offence.

In large parts of India, especially in States where tribals are in jail for being alleged sympathisers of the CPI-Maoist, the judgement has acted as a shot in the arm of the activists and the lawyers. “This is a landmark judgement in context of Chhattisgarh, as there are more than 2,000 tribals languishing in various jails. However, I am not sure if this verdict will be taken into cognisance while passing a judgement,” said K.K. Dubey, who represents several under-trial tribals in south Chhattisgarh. Activists in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand have also welcomed Justice Thipsey’s judgement.

Protesting against expolitation of poor no crime: Bombay High court

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Prabhat Sharan Mumbai, Feb 5, 2013, DHNS

Court orders release of four artistes alleged to be Maoists

Last week, the Bombay High Court granted bail to four street theatre artistes for allegedly having Maoist connections, observing that “speaking about corruption, social inequality, exploitation of the poor etc and desiring a better society should come into existence and is not banned in our country.”

Granting bail to Dhawala Dhengle, Siddarth Bhosale, Mayuri Bhagat and Anuradha Sonule, against a surety of Rs 30,000 each, Justice Abhay Thipsay said: “Highlighting and creating social awareness on corruption, the widening gap between the rich and the poor and exploitation of the poor is commendable and cannot be considered an evidence of being members of a terrorist organisation.”

The artistes, belonging to a street theatre group named “Kabir Kala Manch,” were picked up the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in 2011 on grounds that they were inciting the people to violence and members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Though police had detained seven people initially, four of them were still in jail since the ATS claimed to have found “incriminating documents and books” in their possession.

Going through the evidence submitted by the state, Justice Thipsay said: “Many of the books found are available in the market and there is no denial of that by the state. In any case, the said literature is not banned and reading thereof is not prohibited.”

On charges that the theatre group was advocating violence through street plays, Justice Thipsay told the public prosecutor: “There is nothing wrong in raising social issues and emphasising that a change in social order is required. The same views are expressed by several national and eminent leaders and a person cannot be branded a member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) for expressing such views.

“On the contrary, such a reasoning would indicate that these issues, which are real and important, are not addressed by anyone else, except the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which in turn would mean that other parties or social organisations are indifferent to these problems.”

Expressing surprise at the evidence based on which the artistes were imprisoned, Justice Thipsay said: “It is surprising that highlighting the wrongs prevalent in the society and insisting that there is a need to change the situation was considered as evidence and used to convince the court of them being members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).”

The judge further observed that even the expression of views “to the effect that a change in social order can be brought about only by a revolution” would not amount to any offence. Those who advocate the teachings of Karl Marx are certainly not committing any crime.

DOWNLOAD FULL JUDGEMENT HERE

 

#India -Raising social issues no crime: Bombay High Court #protest #justice

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   Dhawala Dhengale

Court grants bail saying highlighting society’s flaws doesn’t make one a Maoist

Sunil Baghel, MM

Posted On Tuesday, February 05, 2013 at 04:15:07 AM

Raising issues like “social inequality” is not banned and hence is not punishable, the Bombay High Court observed while granting bail to four alleged Maoists.

“The interest taken by the applicants and their attempts to create social awareness is commendable,” observed Justice Abhay Thipsay while passing the judgment last Thursday. “How can their highlighting wrongs in society and insisting on the need for change be considered evidence of belonging to a terrorist organisation?”

Three accused – Dhawala Dhengale, Mayuri Bhagat and Anuradha Sonule – were allegedly associated with the Kabir Kala Manch, which held street plays on “social inequalities.” The fourth accused, Siddharth Bhosale, is alleged to be an important activist of the Maoists from whom provocative literature was seized.

Taking the State to task, the HC said, “It is surprising that the State should consider these activities as incriminating material. Speaking about corruption, social inequality, etc and seeking a better society is not banned.”

The court observed that national leaders express the same views and that “expression of these views cannot brand a person as a member of Communist Party of India (Maoists).”

The court noted that if the “concerns” are taken to be expressed only by CPI (Maoists), then “it would indicate that these issues are not addressed by anyone else except CPI (Maoists), which would mean that other parties or social organisations are indifferent to these problems”.

The Maharashtra ATS arrested the accused last April for being part of the Golden Corridor Committee, a group allegedly set up by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). They were granted bail of Rs 30,000 each with sureties of the same amount. The court had granted bail to two other accused last October, while observing that every person influenced by Maoist ideology can’t be treated as a member of the organisation.

ATS had allegedly recovered CDs, pen drives and printed material supposed to be used to spread the committee’s message.

The HC accepted the defence’s argument that most of the books were available in the market – a fact not denied by the State – and that the said literature was not banned under the provisions of the Criminal Procedural Code, and hence reading the literature was not prohibited.

The court observed that the accused can be said to be sympathisers of the Maoists philosophy. However, there was no evidence to show that they were “active members” of the said organisation.

Only one accused, Angela Sontakke – alleged to be the main accused and secretary of Golden Corridor Committee – now remains in custody.