Jobs @ MG
‘‘POTO aims to gag every voice of dissent’’
Justice H Suresh is a former Mumbai high court
judge. He is a leading human rights activist and has worked extensively
for civil liberties in Maharashtra and other parts of the country. He was
one of the leading lights behind the struggle to scrap TADA and worked for
the early release and rehabilitation of TADA detainees in Mumbai. He has
himself seen atrocities perpetrated by law enforcers on the people
arrested by them during the post Babri demolition riots during 1992 and
1993 and subsequent bomb blasts. Justice Suresh has been fighting for them
and has been trying to drum up support for them. S Ubaidur Rahman
talked to him.
|What is your view of POTO?
There is no need for a special law to curb terrorism, more so when
we have not clearly defined terrorism itself. There are a number of
laws and special laws to curb criminal activities and contain
anti-national activities. We have special laws for areas like Jammu
&Kashmir and Northeast where we are facing militancy. So we have
laws in own place to face either militancy or organized crimes. We
do not need new laws and ordinances.
I have seen how TADA was misused. It had terrorized not only those
people who were charged with it, but their whole families and their
women. How police used women for getting confession from TADA
detainees is no secret. They coerced, they threatened, stripped and
tortured their women relatives to get confession from the accused.
It was simply terrible.
POTO, when there are several laws dealing with militancy and crimes
will serve no purpose in either containing crimes or militancy. It
is going to be only a political tool in the hands of the BJP
government at the centre that it wants to use against one and all.
The tone of the BJP leaders like LK Advani, and other BJP members of
the government at the centre shows that they want to use it for
their own political gains. With us or against us tone is very
dangerous in a democratic country like ours. It gives unprecedented
power in the hands of almost illiterate policemen who have no
regards for human rights and want to detain a person, get confession
from him and deny him bail.
What BJP wants to gain by promulgating POTO is winning election in
states like UP from where it is receiving very negative feed backs.
It wants to create an atmosphere like the country had before Kargil
so as to win elections in UP. It is sure that it is impossible for
the BJP in communally calm atmosphere to win the forthcoming
elections in the state. So it is trying to charge atmosphere and
create fear among people.
Do you believe that the new ordinance will serve any purpose?
Instead of serving any purpose, it is going to be the other way
round. It will not serve any purpose in a way that it is certainly
not going to solve militancy problems in states where militancy is
flourishing. It is not aimed at elimination of militancy either.
TADA did not serve any purpose. What TADA did was to create havoc in
the minds of common people. It denied justice. It worked against
human rights. The new ordinance is more stringent and severe. It
imposes curbs not only on common people and restricts their freedom
but also tries to keep tab on media, whose freedom is so important
in a democratic country. It orders media personnel to disclose the
identity of their sources. If the ordinance is passed with this
clause in place I assure you that from now onwards you will not be
able to see a free and fair report on areas like Punjab, J&K and
North East states. People who assassinated former Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi and convicted were not tried under TADA. They were
tried under other laws in the IPC and awarded stringent punishment.
Do you have reason to believe that it is aimed against Muslims?
The new ordinance is not only aimed against Muslims but also against
all minority communities. Almost all organizations banned under POTO
are from minority communities. It intends to strike terror in the
minds of minorities and restrict their freedom in the country. The
dispensation at the centre is not sympathetic to problems and
sufferings of minority communities in the country and is doing
everything to prop up its organizations against them. It intends to
gag every voice that goes against it. Not only Muslims and
minorities, even people who are against saffronization of country,
saffronization of education and restrictions on human rights and
civil liberties and dare to speak against their policies are going
to lose their freedom if this ordinance is approved.
Why in your view the VHP and Bajrang Dal are not banned under new
The whole thing is being done to give more and more freedom to
organizations who represent their ideology and aim to increase their
presence in every sphere by using every means. If these
organizations are banned their whole plan will fail. They are
restricting others’ freedom to give more space to these people.
You are following TADA cases. Are there still TADA detainees in
Though TADA was disbanded way back in 1995, but thousands of people
are still languishing in jails. Though eight years have passed since
Mumbai bomb blasts but people detained after those blasts are still
there in jails. Cases and arguments are still continuing. I hope the
arguments in their cases will end in August or September next year.
Not before that. There are other people in other cities also who are
still in jails under TADA.
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