Protest The GPISA!
The Government of Gujarat continues to be on the offensive. Unable to deal with growing unrest and protests on several fronts- it has decided to unleash another draconian law called the ‘Gujarat Protection of Internal Security Act’(GPISA). Apparently, a draft is now ready and the Bill is expected to be tabled in the State Assembly at the next budget session.
The provisions of the forthcoming law are draconian on several counts; they negate the fundamental rights of citizens and go against the grain and spirit of the Constitution of India! The proposals include that:
-the Government can take action against caste groups, communities promoting ‘sectarian interests’
– all offences under the new law will be non-bailable.
– people can be arrested merely on suspicion of being a ‘threat to internal security.’
– no legal proceedings against security agencies can be initiated for action taken ‘in ‘good faith.’
– both public and private establishments can be put under electronic surveillance
– the Government can create security zones with special policing powers.
In short, the proposed legislation literally suspends all civil rights and gives the police unbridled powers to arrest anyone ‘on suspicion’. Defending the indefensible, an Official from the Home Department of the Gujarat Government recently said, “the bill will deal with internal security challenges posed by terrorism, insurgency, communalism and even caste violence”. This is all very ironic since those responsible for such acts since 2002 in Gujarat, now occupy high positions of power and privilege in the country and are cloaked with apparent immunity.
This is not the first time that the Gujarat Government has attempted to pass such a law. In 2003, when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister, the State Assembly had passed the terrible ‘Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime (GujCoTOC) bill. Strangely enough, it was the Vajpayee Government that sent it back in 2004 asking for major changes to be made. The Bill was passed later thrice by the State Assembly. Two Presidents, APJ Abdul Kalam (2004) and Pratibha Patil (2008) sent it back to the State Government without giving their assent. In September 2015, the Central Government under PM Modi cleared another version of the GujCoTOC. President Pranab Mukherjee’s approval did not seem forthcoming; finally, at the end of January 2016, the Union Home Ministry withdrew this controversial anti-terror Bill.
Draconian laws are not new to Modi and his ilk. In March 2003, as the CM of Gujarat, he also introduced the ‘Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act’ – which makes it mandatory for permission from the civil authority before one can embrace another religion. In spite of his tall claims of ‘religious freedom’ in India – he has not withdrawn this anti-Constitutional law to date.
It is evidently clear that GPISA is designed to stifle dissent, to choke human rights defenders and anyone else who demand their legitimate and democratic rights. From the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 Gujarat is on the boil: every effort has been made to crush the minorities; land and livelihood has been snatched from the poor and the marginalized – be it the small farmers or the ordinary fishermen. Big Corporations have profited immensely from this injustice. The patidars, the Dalits, the safai karmacharis, the Adivasis have all been on the receiving end in Gujarat.
The voices of protest and dissent in Gujarat and elsewhere cannot be silenced; those who take a stand for truth and for justice- can never be muted. The GPISA cannot be tabled in whatever form. Attempts by the Government to defocus from the plight of the people is bound to have disastrous consequences. It is hoped that sanity and good sense prevails. Beginning with Gujarat, we cannot allow India to become another police or rogue State- as is happening in other countries around us!
We, the people of India, need to awake, now! We need to protest the GPISA!
by Fr Cedric Prakash SJ
About the Author: Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights activist, and in-charge of Advocacy & Communications at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA Region Rue de L’Universitie Saint-Joseph-Beirut, Lebanon