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FIR against Danish Books

FIR against Danish Books

Letters

FIR against Danish Books

T
his is to draw your attention to the registering of an FIR under Section 18 (punishment for conspiracy and knowingly facilitating the commission of terrorist acts, etc) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA), 2004 against Sunita of Danish Books by the Chandrapur police (Maharashtra) on October 15. The reason behind the arrest was the display of books dealing with left ideology and communist movements at her stall, at an event to observe B R Ambedkar’s mass conversions to Buddhism on Deeksha Day. Thirteen books were seized by the police. These include translations of renowned works by Clara Zetkin, B D Sharma, Che Guevara, Li Onesto, and Baburam Bhattarai, among other progressive and leftist literature.

The connection between the public sale and display of books, and the committing of acts of violence threatening the sovereignty of India, or at striking terror in people (the general definition of “terrorist acts” under UAPA) is far-fetched and absurd. By this logic not just publishers and booksellers, but also journalists, teachers, researchers, activists, lawyers, students, librarians, or simply readers and buyers of such literature can be charged and imprisoned. The absurdity of the charge in fact indicates the absolute impunity with which the police can act, and harass people. The case is a direct attack on the constitutional right of freedom of expression and indicates a shrinkage of the public sphere under an increasingly authoritarian regime. The ire of the police being directed at books dealing with political ideas inimical to the present regime, indicates a curtailment of the political freedom of dissemination of information, and free exchange of ideas and beliefs so integral to a democracy.

The scope of punishment under Section 18 (punishment for conspiracy, etc) of Ch IV of the UAPA under which Sunita is charged, extends to the commission of “any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act”. This vagueness of definition is extremely dangerous as it gives the state complete authority to criminalise any activity it wishes to proscribe, and punish any person it finds inconvenient. The intent behind a law like the UAPA, to suppress political opposition and curtailing democratic freedoms, is slowly but surely revealing itself. It needs to be strongly opposed by all sections of people in the interest of protecting our democratic freedom. In keeping with this, PUDR strongly condemns the action of the Maharashtra police and demands that all charges against Sunita be dropped, and the policemen guilty of harassing her be held accountable.

DEEPIKA TANDON, PARAMJEET SINGH

Secretaries, People’s Union for Democratic Rights Delhi

India-China Border War

T
he two informative articles – one by Neville Maxwell and the other by Srinath Raghavan – presenting opposite viewpoints have helped in refreshing our memories of India’s debacle in what Maxwell calls ‘India’s China War’ (September 9, 2006). It is, rather, a coincidence that the Chinese president Hu Jintao arrived on November 20 and on this day in 1962, China announced a unilateral ceasefire and the intention to withdraw its forces. Several books have been published in India, some by the discredited top military brass involved in the war. Each, of course, told his own side of the story. Unfortunately, the Henderson Brooks report dealing with the issue remains inaccessible even after more than four decades. Surprisingly, there was hardly any demand from Indian scholars for making the report public.

(Continued on p 4920)

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Economic and Political Weekly November 25, 2006

Letters

(Continued from p 4834)

I wish some of them would now take advantage of the RTI Act, asking for its release. The report continues to be the most relevant resource for making an objective assessment of the tragic event.

A K DASGUPTA

Hyderabad

Media Covering Parliament

S
umanta Banerjee’s article on ‘Salvaging an Endangered Institution’ (September 9, 2006) makes some very valuable points indeed about Parliament’s decline because of the changing profile of MPs, including, in 70-odd cases, an alleged criminal background, conflict of interest of industrialist MPs serving on committees concerning their business interests, the decline in the standard of debate epitomised by the near-violence between RJD and JD(U) MPs in the Lok Sabha on August 24, 2006.

One issue not touched upon by Banerjee is the role of the media covering Parliament. Since he himself has been a long-time reporter of parliamentary proceedings, this omission is quite surprising. The media invariably focuses on scenes of parliamentary disruption (of which, unfortunately, there are quite a few on a daily process) and ignores the excellent speeches delivered on occasions like the union budget, the railway budget, the office of profit bill, the national rural employment guarantee bill, the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Netaji Subash Bose Commission of Inquiry, the internal security situation and so many other issues. Serious debates are not regarded as worth detailed coverage by the media (except by AIR and Doordarshan in their ‘Today in Parliament’ coverage) even as pandemonium is extensively covered.

While more extensive media coverage of Parliament is not a sufficient condition for arresting its decline, it certainly is a necessary condition.

VINOD CHOWDHURY

Delhi

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    Economic and Political Weekly November 25, 2006

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