March 29, 2023

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The cessation of treason underscores the repression of critical voices in India

This content was released on May 30, 2022 – 07:32

David Asta Alles

New Delhi, May 30 (EFE) .- The suspension of the century-old law regulating the crime of treason by the Supreme Court of India has been well received by human rights organizations, although it has aroused suspicion among those who condemn it. Extensive arsenal in the hands of the government to suppress critical voices.

Section 124A of the Penal Code, which existed during the British colonial period, was suspended on May 11 by order of the Supreme Court of Asia, at least until the Government of India reconsiders it.

One step forward

Amnesty International (AI), an organization that faced a similar crime in 2016 and its case was not completed after three years, described the Supreme Court ruling as “welcome”.

Authorities have long abused the sedition law to harass and intimidate human rights activists, activists, journalists, students, film directors, singers, actors and writers for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression. In a statement.

The silencing of voices criticizing officials is not unique to the current government of the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), although the organization has criticized the growing interest in the use of this arrangement and other legal tools.

According to official data, between 2014 and 2019, only 326 treason cases and six convictions were registered.

Low confidence

The suspension, ordered by the Supreme Court, is only to ask the government not to register further cases under the charge of treason, which is a “step in the right direction” for the AI, although direct victims are less confident.

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Natasha Narwal, a student and activist, was jailed for more than a year after the violence between the Hindu majority and minority communities, excluding Muslims, from the struggles to convert illegal immigrants from the region to citizenship in New Delhi in 2020 against the citizenship law. Fifty people were killed and 200 were injured in the capital.

Alleged to have provoked clashes with other activists, the young woman faces charges of treason, including the controversial Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act (UAPA), labeled as anti-terrorism and brutal.

“The judiciary has sent the ball back to the government accused of using the law against critical voices. For me it is not very credible,” Narwal told Efe.

The activist is an example in the dozens, the problem of which is that the authorities are augmenting the charge under the country’s most stringent law, such as the UAPA or the National Security Act, which imposes strict conditions for obtaining bail. Terms for multiple regions.

“Although bail may be sought, the conditions are so restricted that it is almost impossible to obtain it at least four or five years in advance,” said the young woman, who considers what she and her partner Devangana Kalitha spent to be a “miracle”. Imprisonment for thirteen months

Cases against activists and journalists

Both Narwal and Kalitha are still facing treason charges with other charges, but the list of cases goes on and on in recent years.

Indian activist Disha Ravi, a member of the “Friday for the Future” environmental movement started by Swedish Greta Tunberg, was jailed earlier last year for participating in document preparation in support of farmers’ struggles under the crime of treason. .

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A New Delhi court criticized the “bad and incomplete trial” and granted bail to Ravi, 22.

The law was also used for coverage and commentary by journalists and editors during peasant struggles against the three laws that sought to liberalize the market, and to celebrate the defeat of some Indians, mostly Muslims, by Pakistan, the arch-enemy of the cricket team. Arrests and serious charges of treason.

Narwal reiterates a mantra that has become common among critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government: “The process is punishment.”

“My life now revolves around court dates. I go around almost five or six times a month. So even after I get out of jail, I’m not really free in that sense,” he said.

“Traps” of the Government of India

Indian lawyer Mehmood Pracha told Efe that if the treason cases were now in the background after the Supreme Court verdict, the “stigma of being an enemy of the state” would remain.

Pracha criticizes the attitude of the Indian government towards the crime of treason.

“It is not fair for the government to conspire with the courts,” he explained.

The government said at the time that the home ministry had decided to review the ongoing anti-treason law from 2018, but was not in favor of suspending it.

Essentially, it is not the 150-year-old law or any other prohibition law, but the government’s approach to critical voices that is of concern to the public.

“Laws are not bad, it’s their misuse and harmful use,” he concluded. EFE

daa / mt / jac

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(File sources at Code 8013166954, 8013166950, 8013145642 and 8013145651)

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