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Open Letter to the Home Minister protesting against MHA’s attempt to silence dissent

23 May

[Anyone interested to sign the letter – please get in touch with Prathamesh (prathamesh.t@gmail.com), Samik Basu (samik.basu2@gmail.com), Gautam (gaudas@gmail.com) ]

Dear Mr.Chidamabaram.

This is in reference to the press release by the home ministry which has warned ‘civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, intellectuals and the general public’ to refrain from ’supporting the CPI(Maoist) ideology’ as it will attract action under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It warned that under Section 39 of the Act, “any person who commits the offence of supporting such a terrorist organisation with *inter alia* intention to further the activities of such groups would be liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or with fine or with both.”

We strongly feel that the order violates the very fundamental right of freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution. Freedom of expression does not retain any meaning if it does not entail freedom of expression of those who oppose us. Such an order and the context in which it is being threatened to be used reminds one of the infamous witch hunting led by senator McCarthy in the United States in the 1950s, which is universally regarded as an assault on democracy. Thought and belief and the free expression of thought and belief are inalienable rights of human beings. By snatching that away, you are laying the groundwork for an intolerant state incapable of accepting any criticism.

The question of Maoism is a complex one, that tends to invite multiple political opinions. By denying a section of society the right to even voice their opinion, even if it is in support of Maoists, you are striving to polarise the debate and reduce the whole issue to a simplistic good versus evil situation in which you and the government appear to firmly stand on the side of the good.

We would also like to know what classifies as ’support’ through expression. How do you chose to define it? Does any faint agreement with the ideology or a support based more on personal experience classify as a punishable offence even if it does not involve any violent activity? Will any criticism of state actions in anti Maoist operations be penalized? What safeguards exist to ensure that this will not be used to persecute intellectuals and activists opposed to actions of the state, even if they are not aligned with Maoists, ideologically or otherwise? The case of Binayak Sen stands as a testimony to the fact that these draconian measures is more often than not used to shut dissenting voices regardless of their position on Maoists. Terms as vague as ’support’ end up as a useful excuse in this regard.

We, a group of concerned citizens are protesting against :-

1) The attempt to silence those who identify with, and consider valid the Maoist critique of the state’s policies.
2) The labelling of all critics of state and central governments as ‘Maoist supporters’.
3) Vengeful police action on activists, journalists etc that is already underway using the announcement as a cover.

We believe that the open threat issued by the home ministry in its press release goes against the spirit of the constitution and the fundamental principles of democracy, and hereby issue an open challenge to the ministry to arrest us under this draconian order as we will not be cowed down into silence by force or the threat to use force.

Signatories

1. Abdul Mabood, Snehi, New Delhi
2. Achyut Das, Agragamee, Raigarh, Orissa
3. Amit Bhaduri, New Delhi
4. Ananyo Maitra, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
5. Archana Seker, Chennai
6. Arnab Sen, anthropologist, New Delhi
7. Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, New Delhi
8. Arvind Marathe, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
9. Ashim Jain, Bangalore
10. Ashok Choudhary, NFFPFW, Saharanpur
11. Asish Gupta, Journalist, New Delhi
12. Balaji Narsimhan, AID, US
13. Balmurli Natrajan, AID NYC and South Asia Solidarity Initiative,NYC
14. Bela Bhatia, CSDS, Delhi
15. Chuka Srinivas, FOSA, US
16. Cyril Sam, DU, Delhi
17. Debamitro Chakraborti, Software Engineer, Bangalore
18. Deepak Menon, Arghyam, Bangalore
19. Deepak Srinivasan, Maraa, Bangalore
20. Dharmesh Shah, Chennai
21. Diptarup Nandi, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
22. Dilip D’Souza, Writer , Bombay
23. Gautam Das, EFLU, Hyderabad
24. Gautam Naulakha, PUDR, New Delhi
25. Gopal Menon, Independent Documentary Film Maker, Bangalore
26. Himanshu Kumar, Dantewada
27. Indira Unninayar, Advocate – Supreme Court & Delhi High Court
28. IPA Network India
29. Jawed Naqvi
30. Jyoti Punwani, Journalist, Mumbai
31. Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad
32. Kaveri Rajaraman, New Delhi
33. Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary, PUCL, Rajasthan
34. Kishor Bhat, NIAS, Bangalore
35. Krittika Bhattacharjee, Student, Oxford Univ
36. Madhu Bhaduri, Retd. IFS officer, New Delhi
37. Madhumita Dutta, Activist, Vettiver Collective, Chennai
38. Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
39. Mamata Dash, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers(NFFPFW)
40. Meera Baindur, NIAS, Bangalore
41. Meher Engineer, Physicist, Kolkatta
42. Monisha Bhattacharya, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
43. Natasha Mhatre, Post Doc Fellow, University Bristol
44. Nilanjan Dutta, Journalist, Kolkata
45. Parthasarathi Ray, Sanhati, Kolkata
46. Ponni Arasu, Researcher, New Delhi
47. Pranav Prakash, Iowa University
48. Pranav Sachdeva, Advocate, Supreme Court
49. Prashant Bhushan, Lawyer, Supreme Court
50. Prasanna Venkatesh Balasubramaniam, McMaster University, Canada
51. Prasoon Shukla, Software Engineer, San Jose
52. Pratyush Chandra, New Delhi
53. Prem P. Verma, Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum, Ranchi
54. Priyanka Borpujari, Journalist, Mumbai
55. Pushpa Achanta, AID, Bangalore
56. Ramdas Rao, PUCL, Bangalore
57. Rahul Pandey, Faculty, IIM Lucknow
58. Rajlaxmi Kamath, Faculty, IIM Bangalore
59. Rohan D’Souza, Bangalore
60. Rohit Thombre, Banker, Bombay
61. Roma, NFFWFP(Kaimur)
62. RP Shahi
63. Sajai Jose, Journalist, Bangalore
64. Samik Basu, AID, US
65. Sameera Agnihotri, Research Scholar, IISc
66. Samriddi Sankar Ray, Post Doc Fellow, France
67. Sarita Dhawan, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
68. Satyen Bordoloi, Journalist, Mumbai
69. Satyendra Ranjan, Journalist, New Delhi
70. Shaheen Shasa
71. Shalini Gera, AID , US
72. Shalini Sharma, ASAR, London
73. Shamala Kittane, Oracle , Bangalore
74. Shazia Nigar, Delhi University, Delhi
75. Shiv Sethi, Faculty, RRI, Bangalore
76. Shreya Jani – Standing Together to Enable Peace( Trust) New Delhi
77. Shubhendu Senroy, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
78. Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, Chennai
79. Sidharth Menon, NUJS, Kolkata
80. Siddharth Narrain, Alternative Law Forum, Bengaluru
81. R Soujanya Kumar, EFLU, Hyderabad
82. Soundarya Iyer, Research Scholar, JNCASR, Bangalore
83. Subash Mohapatra, Forum For Fact-finding Documentation and Advocacy, Raipur
84. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker and Journalist, New Delhi
85. Supriya Nair, writer, Mumbai
86. Sushumna Kannan, CSCS, Bangalore
87. Tanushree Gangopadhyay, Journalist, Bangalore
88. Tathagata Sengupta, AID, US
89. T.V.H. Prathamesh, Research Scholar, IISc, Bangalore
90. Vibha Iyer, JNU, New Delhi
91. Vinay Sreenivasa, Bangalore
92. V.N.Sharma, All India Forum for Right To Education, Ranchi

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Posted by on May 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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