As concerned citizens who love and value our democracy, and our country, we must speak out before it is too late and all voices of freedom are silenced forever, says a statement issued by over 1,300 people representing various fields of life
NEW DELHI – Delhi Police’s attempt to silence democratic voices has come in for sharp condemnation from all over India. The latest target is Prof. Apoorvanand, well-known writer, public speaker and professor of Hindi at Delhi University. On August 3, the Special Branch of the Delhi Police called him in its office and interrogated him for five hours in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots that took place in February. The police also seized his phone. This comes close on the heels of the interrogation of many other activists.
This action of police has widely been condemned. On Thursday, more than 1,300 people representing various fields of life issued a statement appealing citizens to resist this attempt to turn India into a police state where all dissent is criminalized under the most draconian laws. “We demand that this systematic harassment of voices critical of the government and the blatant misuse of the law and the state apparatus be stopped immediately. If we fail to protest the muzzling of our democracy today, there may be no democracy left tomorrow,” they said.
Like dozens of others in the past two months, says the statement, Prof. Apoorvanand has been summoned under section 43F of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA. This is not all – the summons mentions 19 sections of the IPC; two sections each of the Prevention of Damage of Public Property (PDPP) Act; two sections of the Arms Act; and, finally, four different sections of the UAPA. This is not a normal enquiry or police business as usual. It is part of a clear strategy by the Delhi Police to present protests against the CAA as a conspiracy to plan and stage the communal riots that shook Delhi in late February. This, in turn, is part of the larger design to shut down all dissent in the country so that no one dares question authority, the statement read.
Stating that democracy today faces its most serious crisis since independence, and the prevailing atmosphere was far more critical than Indira Gandhi’s Emergency 45 years ago, the signatories to the statement said, “as concerned citizens who love and value our democracy, and our country, we must speak out before it is too late and all voices of freedom are silenced forever.”
The statement noted that over the past several months, students, activists, writers, artists, journalists and other public persons who participated in the anti-CAA protests have been targeted for repeated inquiries, and many have been arrested. Under the omnibus FIR 59 of 2020 alone, more than 17 arrests have taken place already under the UAPA, and over two hundred have been arrested under sections of the IPC. The intense activity of the Delhi Police in pursuing this line of inquiry is in marked contrast to their inaction in investigating leaders associated with the BJP who were seen inciting violence on public television. This pattern is identical to that in the Bhima-Koregaon case, launching a nationwide hunt against alleged “Urban Naxals”, while those who were so clearly responsible for instigating riots after the Elgar Parishad meeting in January 2017 are being allowed to go scot-free.
“This crusade to silence all of us has been gathering momentum over the past two years. And today, public figures like Prof. Apoorvanand, and many others, known for their unwavering stand against violence and the politics of hate, are being targeted for their dissenting views. This is all being done under the absurd pretext that these were the ‘masterminds’ who instigated the Delhi riots. By attempting to silence people like this, the government intends a chilling effect on all democratic dissent and discourse; if this is permitted, the chilling effect will be nationwide and it could be irreversible,” the signatories warned.